I was a presenter at a recent symposium presented at the American Psychological Association conference in Honolulu, entitled “The Demise of Guys.” Drs. Philip Zimbardo and Bernie Carducci were the other two presenters. The topic centered on the fact that many teen boys and young men are “dropping out” of society, spending too much time watching TV, in on-line gaming, and watching porn.
Zimbardo argues that gaming and porn create a male striving for constant stimulation that puts them at a disadvantage in traditional classroom settings, and the lack of face-to-face contact results in a decline in interpersonal and dating skills.
My piece of the symposium focused on the issue of the widening gap between male and female social skills. There are already well-documented differences between women and men in terms of their social and interpersonal skills, with women much more emotionally expressive and sensitive, and men better able to control their display of emotions. (If you want to get a sense of the root cause of why women and men can’t communicate well at the emotional level, this is a part of it).
But we are also seeing a widening gap between young men and women in terms of their leadership potential. Presumably, the lack of interpersonal interactions due to too much time on-line, is causing boys to fall behind in terms of the critical interpersonal skills that leaders need to be successful. Couple that with the fact that proportionally fewer males are going to college, and this is the recipe for what Zimbardo calls “the demise of guys.” See his TED talk here.
What is the solution? As parents, we need to get our kids off-line, and into social interaction. I know that’s easier said than done, but participating in sports and clubs and civic organizations, are situations where kids can develop interpersonal skills.
Dr. Bernie Carducci, an expert in overcoming shyness, has some simple, step-by-step programs for developing interpersonal skills. At the symposium, he presented the basics of conversational skills, and some sure-fire rules to keep conversations going and for connecting with others.
The data seem pretty clear, there is a demise in the social capital of guys. We need to be aware of it, and take action.
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Here’s more on the Demise of Guys on Phil Zimbardo’s blog: