As a practicing therapist, I am struck by the emergence of boy-men. That would be males in their late teens and twenties are simply not growing up. This has been a trend I have witnessed both from the treatment of these guys as well as in the treatment of females in the in the same age group that don’t seem to be able to find suitable partners that have a clue about what is needed to make an adult life happen. It is very frustrating for the females. The corresponding males seem to be clueless as to what they are complaining about.
While I see the same issues arise across economic and racial groups there is a common ground; an involvement in video games, fantasy sports, interactive-pornography, and other forms of online altered universe that creates a virtual reality for them that make face to face uninteresting.
The most successful of the merchants of virtual reality have a better pulse on the laws of human behavior than the top mental health professionals. Whether its levels in gaming, or the winning round choices in sports, or getting a virtual sex partner to do what a real one won’t, these forms of virtual reality have positive reinforcement down to an exact science of what they have to do to get you to the next level and pull out the credit card. Beyond that, there is a virtual peer group that imitates friends … just like so many people might confuse all of their “friends” on Facebook with real friends, even more so in these higher levels of addictive lifestyles. I’m not calling it entertainment. For the people who have a problem, it is no more entertainment than alcohol is social entertainment to the alcoholic.
The virtual world starts to take over because in the real world they are starting to feel like losers and they are not hitting any of the benchmarks of maturity such as academic achievement, meaningful career direction or relationships. In this virtual world they are getting to the next level and have lots of reinforcement from their fake peers online.
This makes the real world a dreary place and one that they draw further and further away from, falling further and further behind.
As with any other addiction, the first step is for the person to realize they have a problem. That is very hard in this case for a few reasons. One is that we have not, as a society, even begun to realize the extent of the issue, therefore, they are not hearing from any one that what they are doing is problematic. Two: this is the only place they are experiencing any achievement or pleasure. Since they have not developed properly along the way, they are not missing what they don’t have because they don’t even realize they don’t have it.
That is why it is so important that if you are a parent, and you notice that your child’s virtual world is more important than the real one, that you intercede. They will rebel with the same tenacity of a drug addict.
Exactly how to proceed is different with each person, but it is important to set real world benchmarks and work to achieve those.