Why won’t you “like” me?

Why won’t you “like” me?

When you choose to share something on Facebook, you are likely doing so because you’ve had some thought or experience that you want others to experience as well. There has never been an easier way to share thoughts, feelings or experiences with so many people so quickly. So, when your loved one poses for that perfect picture or that perfectly funny situation unfolds in life, you grab your phone or computer and post it for all your friends to see. But, is it the act of posting that you enjoy, or does that enjoyment only come when others “like” or comment to let you know they have enjoyed your experience as well? For me, it seems the more personal the post, the more I find myself checking throughout the day to see if others have enjoyed it as well.  Sharing personal thoughts or experiences leads to a feeling of vulnerability and a desire to have that thought or experience validated by those who we respect. But how many “likes” or comments does it take to feel validated?


Effect of pornography on relationships:

Effect of pornography on relationships:

My purpose here is not to spend much time talking about the prevalence of pornography on the internet, as those statistics are readily available and really, we all know it’s out there and the numbers are huge. $13 Billion annually in the U.S. alone, and apparently, porn sites get more visitors each day than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.  The days of having to sneak into the back of your father’s dresser to flip through the pages of a magazine are gone and have been replaced with only needing a few seconds of unsupervised time on the internet to find video clips of anything you are interested in seeing. The purpose of my writing today is to discuss the impact that pornography has on relationships. I will also only be addressing the impact on men, as they are by far the most common consumers of porn.

It probably seems obvious that viewing pornography would have a negative impact on most relationships, but what is that impact and why does it occur? The first and most obvious impact is that it creates unrealistic ideas about what a healthy sex life should be like, what sex acts a women should be willing to perform, and what a woman’s body should look like. Women in adult films are often young, fit and well endowed, and willing to do just about anything. This can lead to a lack of satisfaction in one’s partner in real life, and eventually to an inability to become aroused by a “real” woman. Erectile Dysfunction in men under the age of 40 is a relatively new phenomenon and coincides with the widespread availability of porn on the internet. As men watch their “ideal” woman, willing to perform any and all sexual acts, they begin to find only that type of woman sexually attractive.

It’s also important to discuss the impact of pornography on a man’s brain chemistry. As men stare at porn on the computer, their brains are being flooded with Dopamine in levels that cannot be matched by real life. The brain loves novelty and the internet allows men to surf through dozens of explicit images or videos one right after the other. This constant stream of stimulation produces an almost euphoric feeling that again, cannot be matched by sex with their partner. The average length of a porn viewing session is about 45 minutes, during which men stay in this euphoric, dissociative state of mind.  There is also the issue of Oxytocin, often referred to as the bonding hormone. When a man ejaculates, his brain produces Oxytocin, which helps him bond with his partner and feel a sense of closeness and connection to her. However, when a man ejaculates while staring at a screen, he is actually bonding to the screen images and not his partner. This leads to feeling less connected to his partner and creates an unhealthy bond with pornography.

Finally, there is also the issue of shame. Shame is a feeling that arises out of an awareness that you are doing something you know you should not be doing. Most men hide their porn viewing and develop a sense of shame that becomes associated with sex and sexuality. This occurs whether men view deviant or more traditional pornography. The shame that comes from feeling the need to hide behavior can create the same energy impact on a relationship as infidelity. This shameful energy can be felt by one’s partner and lead to trust issues within the relationship. It also creates a secret, and secrets are not good for people or relationships.

So, men, as you sit down at your computer and think about watching porn, take a second to consider the impact it may have on your brain, your conscience, and your relationship.

When to Unfriend

We all have at least one of those “friends” on Facebook or other social media who seems to feel the need to express his or her opinions in ways that are not only insensitive to the opinions of others, but often downright disrespectful. And making the decision to “unfriend” can create stress because it can actually feel confrontational, and there is the fear of what that person will think or feel if/when they notice. It can also create stress to have to realize that a person we thought was reasonable is not. At what point do we choose to end our association with that person?

Recently, I encountered such a situation and finally had to make the decision to unfriend. I did not unfriend because this person’s views differed from mine. I welcome views, comments, or posts that force me to think about an issue differently than I did before. I also enjoy debating issues in thoughtful and respectful ways. I don’t believe anyone has all the right ideas and I do believe we can and should learn from each other.  I unfriended him because he consistently showed a complete disrespect for the fact that others hold views different from his own. I unfriended him because he tried to bully rather than persuade through thoughtful discussion. I unfriended him because he made no attempt to see any sides to an argument other than his own.

In this day and age, the decision to unfriend is usually not made lightly. We are living in one of the most divisive times we have ever known, and many of our friends may feel differently than we do about specific issues. This makes the willingness to disagree and debate in thoughtful and respectful ways more important now than it has ever been. I made the decision to unfriend because I could no longer tolerate intolerance, I could not ignore ignorance, and rational discussion cannot break through the walls of irrational arrogance.

So, if you have been tolerating offensive posts or comments because unfriending felt too harsh, or beating your head against a wall by trying to combat irrational people with rational arguments, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why you haven’t hit the unfriend button yet.  I’d encourage you to liberate yourself from their lack of mental health, in order to preserve your own. From someone who finally made the decision, I must say it’s quite a relief.

Screen Addiction

Do you find yourself bombarded with questions from your children about when they will be allowed to watch their next show, play their next video game, or get back on their electronic device? Odds are if you have introduced your children to these forms of entertainment then you are quite familiar with these questions. What was likely introduced innocently as a treat, or a distraction to give you a few minutes to get something done, seems now to have become all your child can think about, and likely has become a source of stress in your home. If this sounds familiar, then your child may be experiencing screen addiction.

You may find my use of the word “addiction” to be troubling because like most people, you probably associate addiction with drugs and alcohol. However, screen stimulation creates a reaction in the brain very similar to that of drugs like cocaine. As children stare at their screens, their brains are overloaded with stimuli that create a rush of Dopamine in his or her brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. In naturally occurring amounts, Dopamine helps children to enjoy things such as sunshine on a beautiful day, a great meal or time spent playing with family or friends. However, in the doses that result from today’s electronics, your child’s ability to enjoy those simple pleasures quickly becomes diminished.

You most likely have positive memories involving screens from your childhood and want your children have the same kinds of experiences. The problem is that today’s screens, and the entertainment on them, are quite different than what was available even 10 years ago. As graphics have become more realistic and the number of pixels continues to grow, exposure to screens stimulates your child’s mind in ways in which regular, non-electronic life cannot compete. And, you end up with a child who bored with life and disinterested in anything that isn’t digital. As you can imagine, this can lead to significant challenges in school and at home.

The reality is that some kids can handle more screen stimulation than others and every child does not become addicted. Brain chemistry is a real thing and individual differences do exist. Children with ADHD tendencies, poor social skills, or a history of addictive behaviors within their family are especially vulnerable. Pay attention to your child and the effect that screen stimulation has on him or her. If you notice an unhealthy attachment to screens, do not expect this to go away without intervention. Remember that your child may be experiencing an addiction and may need help to break the spell. The first step is recognizing that there is a problem, and designing a plan to push through the initial resistance toward change.