Psychological

Sex Industry

Pornography

Prostitution

Surrogates

Dating

Dubious Digital Platforms

Broader Normative Picture

Social Media

Social Capital

Cyberbullying

Feeling Wired

‘Always on call’

Gaming

Gambling

Digital Immersion

Relationships

Tech Neglect

Sexting


Sex Industry

Pornography

Although porn was hardly in decline prior to The Digital Revolution, it has taken off in recent years in a way that few could have predicted even a decade ago. This is thanks in no small measure, it has to be said, to the proliferation and enhancement of digital communications technology | theweek.com

Anyone can now access highly graphic content depicting extreme sexual acts, at the click of a button, and in 2010 a shocking 8 in 10 children aged 14-16 were regularly accessing explicit media in the UK | safetynet.org.uk

The effect that this is having on impressionable young minds should be of concern to us all. In the context of inadequate precautions and countermeasures (e.g. supervision, filtering, and sex/relationship education), our society is inexorably undergoing insidious normative transformation | theguardian.com

Young males are broadly susceptible to related fascination, and many to potentially unhealthy related desensitisation, fetishism, expectancy, and entitlement, in relation to the (violent/sadistic) sexual behaviour that they see increasingly realistically enacted in pornographic media | publicnewsservice.org

None of this bodes well for young females, themselves susceptible to normalising related attitudes that they may not, at first, fully comprehend are not in their interests, or moral, or in some cases legal e.g. | womenssupportproject.co.uk

  • The objectification, and sex-appeal skewed appraisal/validation, of females
  • Female sexual availability, persuasion/coercion/forced sex
  • Female sexual preferences, including non-consensual, rough, and anal, sex

Pornography is cited as a contributory factor in enhanced misogyny, aggression (including sexual) and growing social acceptance thereof (LAD culture etc.), sexual health problems, and relationship breakdown and divorce, with its misuse by now a recognised form of ‘sex addiction’ | huffingtonpost.com

Spare a thought, also, for those sucked into working within the industry – it may seem like a glamorous and gratifying lifestyle for performers, and there may be those who genuinely enjoy it and live happy and fulfilled lives – never having any regrets, but that is far from the whole story | shelleylubben.com

Prostitution

Digital platforms have enabled greater numbers of both sex workers and clients to effortlessly, anonymously promote/access ‘the sex market’, with the percentage of men who admit that they pay for sex in the UK (over 10%) twice as high today as it was when the internet was in its infancy | thetypewriter.org

The number of young sex workers appears to have risen too, with around 5% of students now involved in the UK. A string of other interconnected factors, touched on in other parts of this article, that have intensified in The Digital Age have no doubt also played a role in these rises e.g. those below | theguardian.com

  • Objectification and the transformation of sexual expectations
  • Hypersexualisation and the sexualisation of young children
  • Hyperconsumption, and unhealthy money-obsessed acts
  • Interpersonal disconnect and relationship difficulties

Human trafficking and sexual slavery, sexual assault, and various other rights violations, other forms of related criminality, social stigma, sexual health, and education, remain major problem areas for ‘the world’s oldest profession’. However, few authorities seem willing/able to do much about it, or the ethically-unplugged digital infrastructure that is enabling it to flourish | independent.co.uk

  • Regulate the ‘industry’ using technology as an asset
  • Tackle indirect sociological contributors
  • Help workers/clients out of industry
  • Educate young would-be entrants

Surrogates

The Digital Age has seen sex aids and ‘toys’ evolve from inanimate objects, through electronic and mechanised devices, to ‘sex robots’ that wouldn’t look out of place in a particularly creepy Sci-Fi flick. Humanoid android sexual play-things are set to become an indelible part of 21st century sexuality, purportedly potentially crowding out interpersonal sexual activity by 2050! | telegraph.co.uk

 

Dating


‘There have been two major hetero-mating transitions in the last 4,000,000 years: 1) The agricultural revolution; 2) The rise of the Internet’ | Prof. Justin Garcia

Dubious Digital Platforms

Quasi-prostitution

Hundreds of thousands of males in ‘the developed world’ now rent girlfriends young enough to be their (grand)daughters via sexual ‘arrangement’ or ‘Sugar Daddy’ portals. Almost half such liasons are adulterous, and living a double life and/or facing social fallout takes its toll on participants; problems commonly reported include: social alienation, self-esteem issues, stress, depression, and self-harm/substance abuse | huffingtonpost.com

Cheating/Adultery

Some digital dating service providers actively promote the fact that their platforms help facilitate infidelity; indeed, perversely enough, one or two actually centre their USP’s on it! Reassuringly, such services appear to have very few genuine/active female accounts, however | techcrunch.com

Hook-ups

Hookup culture has collided with digital dating platforms in a fairly catastrophic way, with many men now using apps to ‘prowl’ for ‘game’, seeking intimacy in the absence of interpersonal affinity and respect, never mind intimate knowledge. This is a world in which females are ‘perceived of as being in plentiful supply’, ‘self-objectifying’, and (therefore) ‘easy’, consequently finding themselves reduced to ‘Tinderellas’ (digital-conquests) | Prof. David Buss

Such women cite growing up on social media as a source of anxiety concerning genuine intimacy e.g. thanks to the associated relative dearth of face-to-face social skills. Many also acknowledge that sex in the absence of emotional intimacy damages self-esteem, attracts criticism (e.g. ‘slut shaming’ type stigma), and upsets self-image – yet still they continue to swipe | vanityfair.com

Broader Normative Picture

Digital dalliance

‘With new technologies, restrictions are being stripped away and we see people gorging themselves. You could call it a kind of psychosexual obesity’Christopher Ryan. Variety is of course the spice of life but the concern is that markedly more transient/shallow dating experiences may have serious sociological implications

A superficial normative dating environment diminishes the mental health and stability of affected individual daters. It also undermines the potential for stable, enduring relationships and hence prospects of healthy and sustainable relations between would-be parents. As such, these increasingly pervasive norms are storing up significant social strife for future generations (‘fatherlessness’ is already a massive social ill in the West) | civitas.org.uk

Gendered Behaviour

Far from breaking down barriers between the sexes, The Digital Revolution appears to be enhancing male and female stereotypes within the dating domain. Men now ‘chase’ to the point of compulsion, often in a most undignified fashion (wildly exaggerated behaviour/claims through to outright stalking/fraud) | jezebel.com

With the power to test, tease, and reject scores of such sorry souls, comes significantly upped self-perceived value. This can be no bad thing e.g. countering growing levels of inadequacy, but increasingly results in enhanced narcissism/’princess behaviour’ and in women (unsustainably) dating relatively polygamous/exploitative men | theguardian.com

Romance

Romantic relationships are conventionally founded in the Hollywood-esque fantasy of a charming, somewhat serendipitous, and face-to-face encounter with an attractive, single, adult with whom one is in some way connected (however indirectly) in real life (IRL), that gradually blossoms into something beautifully intimate, profound, and potentially long-lived

The distinction with du jour online dating modalities, as outlined in this article, should be fairly self-explanatory. Necessity is the mother of invention and romance is, frankly, no longer considered necessary in order to achieve one’s dating objective(s) – whether they be sex, money, company, enhanced social status, or even relatively normal, balanced, and enduring holistic relationships

We evaluate would-be dates before giving them the time of day, let alone getting to know or meeting one another. Easy/instantaneous digital communication has also removed much of the ‘thrill of the chase’, in an age in which prospective dates are reduced to dehumanised digital ‘menu items’ (contacts) in our virtual ‘shopping baskets’ (dating apps) | independent.co.uk

Social abstraction

We typically meet online dates in the absence of bonds of social commonality/familiarity, associated reputational safeguards, and opportunities to socially evaluate a would-be sexual partner in a rounded way

This has its plus points e.g. ‘abstraction as an optimisation strategy’ – including room for the delights of uncharacteristic mischief, ‘the art of role-play’, and trial-by-fire

However, this is often far from ideal, in light of the areas of concern highlighted in this article – particularly misrepresentation vs. the ‘Tinderella’ mindset

First Impressions

Virtual exchanges are largely borne of stereotyped assumptions, founded in subjective perceptions relating to oft cursory examinations of personal profiles, which typically amount to a small amount of exaggerated/superficial spiel

This may provide useful early clues as to the suitability of a potential mate but too much emphasis on first impressions can lead to skewed judgement and resultant cognitive dissonance – particularly in abstracted social contexts | academia.edu

Daters who don’t simply walk away often battle to convince themselves that the person they have elected to date matches the pre-conceived image/ideal, almost no matter to what extent the behaviour of said date deviates from expectations

From time to time individuals hence persevere with dates who may have seemed attractive/right for them, on paper, but are, in fact, in reality anything but

Safety

Meeting ‘strangers from the internet’ is of course essentially no more unsafe than, say, accepting an offer of a drink from a random person at a bar. That said, the internet does disinhibit behaviour and virtually every service has ‘Plenty of Freaks’

Given some of the unhealthy attitudinal themes touched on in this article, it is also fair to say that unfortunately the very nature of the online dating landscape, and the way people frequently end up attempting to navigate it, tends to increase the risk of/magnify the effect of unhealthy psychological behaviours and outcomes

 

Social Media

Social Capital

Factors associated with the formation of unhealthy habits in this area include:

  • ‘The weight of expectations’, largely fostered by (digital) youth culture
  • Yearning for self-esteem boosts in an evermore disconnected world
  • Social competition and the desire for virtual social status/currency
  • Hyperpersonal selective/positively skewed self-presentation

In this context, young females in particular appear susceptible to succumbing to (pathological) inadequacy/narcissism e.g. as manifest in fanatical endeavours to preserve self-image/gain social capital, and the related slippery slope of sexualisation, self-objectification, and indecency; relatedly, social media is increasingly being used as a platform to openly promote sex workers – some of them very young themselves | telegraph.co.uk

  • Educate young people as to the pitfalls
  • Examine self-esteem vs. self-worth | infullsail.com
  • Work on self-worth until esteem is innate | wikihow.com
  • Encourage everyone to practice mindfulness/acceptance | NHS.uk

Cyberbullying

The perception that anyone with an online presence is somehow fair game/should develop a thick skin, that online ‘banter’ cannot constitute bullying, and that authority figures are unlikely to (be able to) act, appears to mean that ‘digital citizens’ frequently act immorally in this regard | digizen.org

Online bullying and ‘trolling’ have grown to become significant social ills – with marked psychosocial implications for victims, spawning a wave of mental health problems, self-harm, and a number of tragic suicides | nobullying.com

 

Feeling Wired

‘Always on call’

“Being able to multitask is now widely regarded as a basic requirement .. we feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things we might plausibly be doing at any one time, and by the feeling that we are on call at any moment.” | ft.com

We can no longer use the excuse ‘I was too busy’ or ‘didn’t get time’ when the world and his wife can see we’ve been active online. Even when we’re not physically in the office, we’re often still virtually at work, and even when we’re not actually working we’re often nevertheless socially ‘on-call’

This constant sense of being ‘plugged in’ to the system has been shown to be associated with enhanced levels of anxiety and fatigue | hull.ac.uk

Preoccupation with digital coms, specifically, is an addiction involving compulsive behaviour associated with psychoactive drug release vs. withdrawal symptoms and anxiety relating to fear of diminished social status, involvement, and ostracisation (nomophobia etc.) | telegraph.co.uk

A growing body of evidence links excessive use with materialism, emotional instability, and poor sleep, attention, and engagement | huffingtonpost.com

  • Listen to Apple: “your phone is ruining your life” | wired.com
  • Use lists to unburden the subconscious re: ‘things to do’
  • Switch between tasks whenever possible, and take breaks
  • Disable notifications and use efficient screens/keyboards
  • Schedule connectivity e.g. with Freedom and Self-Control
  • Sporadically unplug and experience digital disconnect
  • Consider behaviour change tools like DistractaGone
  • Practice ‘mindfulness‘ and alternative meditation

Gaming

Playing intense, violent and sexist video games has, unsurprisingly, been linked to the enhancement of unhealthy norms and psychological behaviours: including apathy, irritability, aggression, and sadism | washingtonpost.com

More broadly, computer game design/use is often critiqued for the addictive qualities/behaviours on display in some cases and, at the very least, a considerable amount of time, money, and energy is now expended on such digital distractions

Clearly this has a significant social, cultural, and economic opportunity cost and many people – especially young males, it has to be said – struggle to strike the right balance in this respect. As per the bulk of this article: moderation is key

Gambling

75% of those who gamble online are problem gamblers, a figure many times higher than the conventional norm – which wasn’t healthy to begin with!

The high-speed, bright lights, evocative, affirmative sounds, and instant gratification of online gambling platforms, paired with the virtual nature of the real currency being frittered away and the high level of privacy involved, are known to exacerbate problem gambling | wikipedia.org

Digital Immersion

Contemporary ’24/7′ digital culture – including time-honoured ‘vegging in-front of the TV’ as well as ‘problematic internet use’ – is resulting in burn out and an evermore zombie-like population e.g. associated with:

  • Less active, more sedentary, lives – contributing to obesity
  • Semi-nocturnal lifestyles and (blue-light) disturbed bio-rhythms
  • Pallor and a generally unhealthy, sun-deprived complexion
  • Suboptimal posture, breathing and body language
  • Murmuring, given underused vocal cords and digital distractions

A population subdued in this way may suit the powers that be but hardly makes for a very healthy, never mind vibrant, society. Indeed, concerns about the mental health impacts of digital disconnect are becoming mainstream | theatlantic.com

In the light of a concerning report on digital immersion among children, the UK Children’s Commissioner has released the Digital 5-a-day program, to help parents protect the next generation from the worst effects of digital disconnect | childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

Infomania distracts from reality in dangerous ways too e.g. there appears to be little difference in road alertness between a driver using a handheld vs. a hands-free mobile phone | apa.org

 

Relationships

Tech Neglect

Relationship atrophy in the 21st century has a lot to do with many of the themes already touched on in this article, particularly in relation to the neglect of close, real life, face-to-face connections – be they familial, romantic, platonic, educational, or professional | dailymail.co.uk

Studies show that heavy digital diets detrimentally impact on trust, empathy and overall relationship quality, principally via their capacity to distract, as well as to tempt, in the emotional disengagement and infidelity stakes | cnn.com

Seemingly relatively benign ‘passive’/’permissive’ parenting is known to undermine child behaviour and development, is on the rise, and being linked,  increasingly, to digital distraction in this, The Digital Age | telegraph.co.uk

  • Educate young people | screenagersmovie.com
  • Communicate how you’re feeling from the get-go
  • Nourish relationships by giving people due attention
  • Impose curfews/seek help if self-discipline is a problem
  • Think carefully before digitally disclosing intimate info
  • Enjoy truly intimate digital-connections e.g. with Between

Sexting

The exchange of sexual messages or images has been found to entail tech-enabled objectification, enhanced psychosexual pressures, and coercion, is fast becoming normalised among young people, and is a practice that ever younger children appear to be getting lured into by the day | nspcc.org.uk

 


Disclaimer | The author is not responsible for any decisions individuals make directly or indirectly in relation to site content. This site does not claim to diagnose, treat, or cure any health problems and the content thereon is not intended to replace the advice of any healthcare or legal professional. Visitors are encouraged to consider carefully the insights and advice that they come across via this, or any other, web-resource carefully and with a suitably qualified professional before taking any related action

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