Teaching Children About Hyperreality

Unless you lived in a cave in Uzbekistan for the past thirty years, you know we now live in a postmodern western world that is increasingly rejecting its Judeo-Christian roots in favor of subjective relativism and the pursuit of experience and pleasure over temperance.

This pursuit of pleasure, disconnected from the restraints provided by the ethical code of the Judeo-Christian faith, is also facilitated by ready access to ubiquitous media content, such as video games and the Internet, that makes it very easy for people to feed their passions.

The result, according to Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University and psychologist Nikita Duncan in their new book The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, is that an entire generation of young men is choosing  fantasy, or hyperreality, over reality.

Much like those lab rats that choose electrical stimulation of pleasure even over food, today’s young men are getting addicted to video games and online pornography on a scale unparalleled by any addiction ever seen before.

People addicted do video games and porn, however, are not looking for ever-increasing quantity, but for novelty, the next big thrill. Their brain is thus being rewired little by little to finally reject the boring reality and seek the constant stimulation of hyperreality.

What are they going to do when technological advances make available to them the pursuits of pleasures we can only conceptualize today, like guided conscious dreams where they can pursue the latest Hollywood celebrity or their next-door married neighbor? What if the economy tanks and the world enters a never-seen before depression, which only fosters an escape from reality into further pursuit of ephemeral pleasures?

And how are these addictions going to affect relationships? And how do they relate to happiness?

If psychology tells us anything on the subject, the outlook is not promising. Addiction makes us miserable. It seems the maker of our moral framework designed happiness to be related to temperance and selflessness, not addiction, self-gratification, and the pursuit of the Now.

Even a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links porn addiction to poor health, depression, and isolation. Not surprising if it’s true that happiness is related to real, meaningful relationships, not to the pursuit of immediate self-gratification.

If we want children, ours and others’, to refuse the allure of hyperreality, we need to teach them that the road to lasting happiness and fulfillment lies not in the spikes of pleasure caused by addictions — whether they are addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or games — but in the steady joy and content that comes from living a life in harmony with the moral framework of our universe, from the pursuit of our God-given talents and interests, from living meaningful relationships with family and friends in truth and selflessness.

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