Amid shifting social, economic and technological climates, young men are getting left behind, at least according to Philip Zimbardo and Nikita D. Coulombe in their 2015 book ‘Man Disconnected: How the Digital Age is Changing Young Men Forever‘.
The two authors cite a range of anecdotal and research-evidence (some of it primary) to put forward the argument that men are ‘flaming out academically’, falling behind in the world of work, failing to connect with women and struggling with addictions to porn video games and drugs (both legal and illegal).
In order to understand why men are increasingly disconnected, they develop a three part analysis:
- firstly they highlight the individual dispositions (such as ‘shyness’ and ‘impulsiveness’) related to male disconnectdness
- secondly they look at situational context – such as widespread fatherlessness and the ease of availability of online games and pornography
- Finally they look at structural factors such as changes in the labour market.
These three factors together have resulted in many men lacking purposeful direction and lacking in social skills: may would rather live at home with their parents, often extending their childhood into their 30s, (on this note, you night me interested in this post on the increasing numbers of young people living at home with their parents, UK focus).
Rather than face up to the complexities of adult life, more and more young men stay at home, distracted by an online world of gaming and porn, which further reinforces their social isolation and awkwardness.
The book is split into three sections:
- the symptoms (or you might say indicators) of men being disconnected, which I deal with in this post
- the causes of men being disconnected.
- Finally, the authors offer some solutions for dealing with what we might call a ‘crisis of masculinity’.
The Symptoms of Male Disconnectedness
In this (short) section the authors simply trawl through a range of evidence to outline the problems faced by young men in many societies about the world. NB the evidence cited is mixed – some is global, some US and UK focuses, some not particularly well referenced at all.
The authors break ‘the symptoms’ down into seven major sections:
- Disenchantment with education – girls are outperforming boys in every subject at every level of education around the world.
- Men opting out of the workforce – the male unemployment rate globally has increased nearly fourfold since the 1970s – from 2% in 1970 to 7% in 1990/
- social intensity syndrome – this is a phenomenon in which increasing male shyness means men prefer the company of other men… they’d rather have bromance than romance.
- excessive gaming – this is a weekly evidenced section – we are told that the average person will clock up 10k hours of gaming before they are 21, but in terms of gender, we are simply told that the majority of gamers are male, and informed that in a couple of pieces of research of couples where only 1 person was into gaming, that person was male 70-80% of the time.
- becoming obese – this section focuses mainly on the US where 70% of US men are overweight, 1 in 3 are obese.
- excessive porn use – the average boy watches nearly 2 hours of porn ever week, and 1 in 3 are heavy users, meaning they can’t even count how much they watch. The problem with porn is that it teaches young men (with no prior sexual experience) to treat women like sex objects rather than as human beings.
- over-reliance on medications and illegal drugs – this is a poorly written section, the only statistical evidence cited is that 85% of medication for disorders such as ADHD are given to males.