6 Ways that Technology Takes Away Manliness

As you may have guessed from the title of this article, I have strong feelings about technology's affect on humanity and most of those feelings are bad.  I maintain that genuine life is found only in real life.

CS Lewis in his autobiographical, "Surprised by Joy," had an insightful observation on the harmful effects of modern transportation.

“The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.”

Lewis in the way that only he could, observes the paradoxical aspect of technology. It gives the appearance of providing us with things while, in reality, taking them away. 

Technology is often thought to be a man's thing. For Father's Day, advertisers encourage wives and kids to buy their dads technology. But the manly nature of technology is not real. Like cars that promised more adventure while actually taking it way, technology takes away our manliness while given the impression of being a manly thing.   

[Note: if you are uncomfortable with the idea that men and women are different, please read this before you go on.] 

 1- It Makes Us Physically Weak
Boys used to spend their time wrestling and playing football. Now they spend their time playing each other in Madden Football on the Playstation and do their wrestling via war games like Call of Duty and Halo. And this is also true of adult men who do less and less physical exercise. We drive in our cars to work, we sit in front of a computer, we drive home, we sit in front of a TV until bed. Some men may jog, lift weights, or hike but on the average men are getting fatter and weaker. You know who has more body fat on average and are weaker on average then men? Yep, women. So, technology makes us closer to women in physical strength and build.
What used to be an important part of being a man, physical strength, is no longer something that most men develop. As a result men are getting softer and weaker. A study was released recently that showed that our grip strength has dropped significantly.  NPR recently reported, “In a study of Americans ages 20-34, occupational therapists found that men younger than 30 have significantly weaker hand grips than their counterparts in 1985 did. The same was true of women ages 20-24, according to the study published online by the Journal of Hand Therapy a few months back.”

NN Taleb, put it bluntly, “The opposite of manliness isn't cowardice; it's technology.”

2- It Makes Things Intended to be Temporary Permanent

When having facebook discussions, I usually delete comments soon after the conversation is done. I don't do it to disrupt the conversation or cut stuff short I just do it because I think that almost every conversation we have on social media is at least somewhat time/context bound and may not make sense in a year or two to someone not currently a part of the conversation. 99% of the things we say verbally are temporary. They come out of our mouths, are heard by the listener, and then the sound waves dissipate and they are left only in the minds of the people that were there. For most of human history and even still today, that is how almost all communication has been. Snapchat does this for people (deletes comments as you go) and that is why it, at least for a time, became popular. It is more natural. It allows communication to go back to regular conversations where you can discuss ideas with a beer in your hand unconcerned that everything you write will be put in a stone that is then made searchable globally for the rest of history. 

I think there are some forms of communication that it makes sense to be permanent. For example, I have written a couple of books (unpublished). For those, everything I write takes years of reflection, modifying, editing, rewriting, getting input from others etc. In other words, part of the process of writing a book ensures that it will do a better job of standing the test of time. But comments on twitter, facebook, etc are more like verbal speech or at least somewhere between a letter and verbal speech. I certainly do not edit them very carefully and if it was required that they were permanent forever I think that it would make the value of twitter/facebook discussions less attractive to many including me. There is something unnatural about a permanent record of things that we say lying down in the living room floor watching football as you keep your sick kid company.

Part of the human experience for all of history is not being recorded. Can you imagine if you were around a group of friends drinking beer and someone pulled out a recorder and said, "okay guys, everything you say will be recorded and transcribed and then put on the internet for all to read." That would be weird and unnatural. Unhuman. 

We all intuitively understand that this is not how most communication works. For most of human history, we say things... they go out and are heard... and then the record is left only in the minds of those present.

3 - It Makes Us More Infantile

The average age of a gamer is now well above 30 years old. That means that grown men are playing games well into adulthood. I have noticed something. I am embarrassed to say that I have at times in my life been very addicted to Angry Birds. I noticed that when I play Angry Birds on airplanes or in public spaces and a pretty woman walks by, I feel the desire to hide the game. I think that on some level, I recognize that unmanliness of the game.
But I think our addiction to the games is a corruption of manliness. Men are more likely to be gamers because I think that games fulfill a lot of the things that men are built to want. We want goals, games have goals. We want missions, games have missions. We want victory, games offer victory. We want glory….. well games offer a fake sort of glory that seems important while you play but no one other than you gives a damn about as soon as you try to tell someone else. It is the sort of fake manliness of children. Like playing war with sticks in the front yard.

4 - It Makes Us Impotent

I was listening to an episode of NPR's, This American Life, and they told the story of Gavin McInnes and the men's group, 'Proud Boys.' One thing it discussed was this group's “no-wanks” policy. If you do not know what any of that means, neither did I until I heard the show. But basically, it was (in 2017) a group of politically conservative (but not necessarily religious) young men who have agreed to not masturbate because it is an unmanly thing to do. Their rule goes something like this… no masturbating except once a month and even then, you can only do it with the permission of your girlfriend or wife. Given that no one wants to ask their significant other if they can masturbate, it effectively bans the practice all together.  I cannot speak to the rest of the ‘Proud Boys’ ideology but that aspect of it struck me. 

This was the first time that that thought that porn and masturbation diminishes our manliness ever crossed my mind. I am someone that has been tempted by the allure of naked women on the internet but have resisted (imperfectly) because I view it as immoral. But one thing that never crossed my mind is how unmanly porn is

But it is true, porn makes men less manly. It is a weird thing. You would think that men looking at naked women would be the height of manliness but our sense of that comes from the fact that it used to be a manly thing to be able to see a woman naked. In real life, for a man to see a woman naked, he needs some combination of charm, good looks, social skill, physical strength, and financial success. Obviously, those qualities can be used for good (to marry a woman properly) or for ill (to sleep around) but they were always required. Seeing women naked required manliness. 

But today, the most pathetic creepy, poor and unsuccessful man living in his mom’s basement has access to endless nudity. Porn gives unmanly men for free the very thing that all men used to seek manliness in order to get. And as a result, men are becoming more and more likely to avoid getting traditional sex and are instead spending their free time masturbating furiously. 

At least for a while. But there is another thing about porn and that is that it has a diminishing effect. The more porn men look at, the less arousing the porn becomes. Weirder and weirder porn is required to get the same arousal. And the effect of lacking arousal carryies over to real life.

Dr. Matthew Christman, a staff urologist with the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, told HealthDay the reason porn addicts are at greater risk of erectile dysfunction is that their “tolerance” for sexual stimulation is higher.

He said: “Tolerance could explain the sexual dysfunction, and can explain our finding that associated preferences for pornography over partnered sex with statistically significantly higher sexual dysfunction in men.”

But the impotency goes even beyond not being able to get it up in sex. It is even getting to the point where men do not want sex at all. Again from the NY Post:

Dr. Joseph Alukal, an associate professor of urology and director of male reproductive health at New York University, said: “Visual stimulation will often increase sexual arousal in both men and women.”

“But when the majority of their time is spent viewing and masturbating to pornography, it is likely they will become less interested in real-world sexual encounters.”

So, porn is fundamentally emasculating. If being a man is related to sex, and sex-drive and capability are destroyed by porn, porn is inherently unmanly.

5 - It Destroys All Perspective on What is Important in the News

If the news media actually cared about giving an accurate portrayal of the world, they would change the length of the shows (or newspapers or whatever) to match the day. For example, on a slow news day, the evening news would be five minutes long. On a packed news day, it would be five hours long. Instead, it is always the same length meaning that every day they are either giving too much time to trivial things or too little time to important things.  (HT: this idea was presented in Taleb’s Anti-Fragile)

And the result of this is that it has become very hard for our human brains to determine what news is important and what is not important. There was a time when humans got their news from actual events. We would see war break out in our village. We would see someone die. We would hear stories from friends and families. But with online constant 24-hour news and endless Tweets about everything happening, we give importance to many things that are completely unimportant. To demonstrate this, take a screen shot of CNN's home page, wait two weeks and notice how many of the 'important' news stories are now irrelevant or turned out to be nothing. 

In short, the news we consume on the internet makes us dumb. We will be told things that are irrelevant. Important news will get too little attention. Unimportant news will get too much. 

Men are built to hear the news and act on the news. By clouding everything we know about what is important and what is not, the constant news provided by technology destroys our manliness.

6- It Gives the Illusion of Happiness While Blocking True Fulfillment

Imagine a mallard hovering down and coming to a rest next to his potential mate. She sits perfectly still. As he approached, she did not move. He nuzzles close to her. Still she does not move. She is beautiful but frozen. He is not a dumb duck but it took him longer than it should have. She is not real. She is a decoy. There is probably a hunter nearby. He would probably be shot soon.

We are the mallard. Technology is the decoy. 

Technology almost always replaces the real with the fake. 

Technology almost always replaces that which has meaning with that which does not. Instead of going to the ballpark, smelling the beer, hearing the cursing drunk in front of you, eating the hotdogs, and cheering as part of a crowd, you experience the whole damn thing on a box, in your living room, alone. Effin dehumanizing.

Science is stupid when it comes to happiness.  Social scientists (not real scientists) believe that you can measure happiness like you can measure velocity. They ask people if they are happy and then imagine that they can find ways to make people happier. This is ridiculous in pretty much every way you can imagine.

Happiness is not a definable or measurable thing. Consider the following: which is better: to be happy all day long (maybe sipping cocktails by the pool with a beautiful woman) or to be knee deep in mud in a jungle with a bunch of stinky men? The answer is not very easy to answer. Supposing in the second example, you are a soldier and you are fighting for the freedom of your country. Supposing that you are at that moment doing what you think God made you to do. The fact that if a social scientist handed you a poll asking how happy you were (on a zero to ten scale) you would probably be tempted to put a negative number, you would not trade places with the cocktail sipping coward for anything and doing so would make you less happy not more.

You can add up all the happy moments you have and find that a person who had considerably fewer happy moments actually had a happier life. Consider the missionary who lives in a mosquito infested nation feeding, clothing, and spreading the gospel with the poorest of the poor and the rich playboy. Who, as they lay down their heads to take their last breath, is happier? And how does a social “scientist” measure that? They do not. They cannot. They should stop saying they can. Me saying this is not anti-science….it is just demonstrates a basic understanding of what science is.

Happiness does not add up. Having a lot of happy moments does not make a happy life.
Why did I write this all in a section of a post about technology? Because I want to avoid a debate about technology and happiness from a scientific perspective but instead want to use philosophy and common sense to argue this: technology makes you unhappy. 

In my experience, there is nothing as soul suckingly unhappy as wasting a day in front of a television. There is nothing more depressing than realizing that you just spent weeks making lights on your TV blink a certain way thanks to your favorite video game.

But the funny thing is that the whole time you play, you feel happy. If a social “scientist” sat next to you and monitored how happy you were, he would surmise that you were the happiness person in history. But he would be wrong. Technology almost always brings a net negative of happiness. It almost always leads to misery and emptiness.

Which would you rather,  climb a real mountain or climb one on a TV? Which would you rather, be a real basketball star or be one on your XBOX? The answer is obvious. For almost every situation. Technology is a happiness sucker. It is putting something fake in the way of something real. And what our generation does is waste our lives doing fake things. Just as the mallard regretted his infatuation with a decoy, so too we regret our infatuation with fake technology. 

Men are happiest when we are accomplishing something great. Technology gives the impression of accomplishments while actually giving us nothing. 

We are sitting next to our decoy. Like suckers.

Technology sucks. Use it as infrequently as possible. Avoid fake stuff. If your game has you in a war, find a real war to be a part of. If you game has you playing sports, find a real sport. If you social media has you talking to people virtually, find a way to talk to people for real. Technology is dehumanizing and unhappy. 


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