Phone Monkey: Porn Brain

PhoneMonkeyPNGI recently wrote about the negative neurological effects of exposure to constant complaining and negativity, and one of the comments on that article mentioned that porn could inflict the same damage. Always amused by our human tendency to overdose on everything, I looked into the issue a bit more.

The JAMA study, referenced both in a Time article and an IFL Science post, is actually wildly incomplete, given the titles of these two articles. At least the title of the Medical Xpress article, which cites the study, is more honest with the reader. I understand the temptation to slap a juicy title onto an article that is inconclusive at best, just because sex is involved. Sex, and porn in particular, are taboo topics, and people love taboo, despite their protestations, and page hits mean ad revenue.

But I’m not here to White Knight porn. It’s a drug, and like anything else done explicitly for self gratification, is best done in moderation. The participants in the JAMA study who watched the most porn were also found to have the least grey matter, but that doesn’t mean anything. Correlation is not causation. Brains with less grey matter might be more prone to porn addiction, or any other addiction, for example. Or it could be a crazy coincidence. The sample size was very small and only included men.

But that’s all work for the scientists. The reason I’m writing this as a Phone Monkey article, is because it relates to complaining. Porn–or at least the flavor of porn we choose–depicts the things we can’t or don’t have, and the reward we get is sweet chemical release. Complaining works pretty much the same way: there’s a hole that needs to be filled [insert rimshot here], and a little tension-and-release  later, the consumer’s reward is compensation and maybe a little extra, resulting in the same release of chemicals in the brain.

Another parallel is the dehumanization involved on both sides. As phone monkeys, we’re unknown and invisible to the consumer, but we’re still expected to perform, often unrealistically. On the flip side, customer emails are often terse itemized lists of what was wrong and what needs to be done in order for the customer to achieve service-gasm. But by doing this, they make themselves into just one more visitor, in to get off and get out. Like Johnny Rivers sang, we’re “givin’ you a number, and takin’ ‘way your name.” Porn works the same way. Objects are used for pleasure by people who have come to view themselves as sexual objects. Parts and counterparts of a machine that grinds out orgasms.

There are enough porn-like service situations that, as with constant complaints, you feel yourself getting dumber and more prejudiced with each one. But obviously, not all customer service experiences are like this, nor is all porn. Some remind you of a sweet kiss, while others remind you of the weird sex you had with that person you met at the Phish concert and will never speak of again, but which you secretly pine for on rainy days.

http://pornhubcommentsonstockphotos.tumblr.com
Or it may remind you of that undergraduate philosophy class.

So, while your customer service rep may be suffering from chronic negative thinking and depression, he or she may also be racked with a form of porn brain from the constant tension and release. When I said in a previous post that I was having trouble talking to people at parties without going into a fix-it mode, this is pretty much what I was talking about. When one’s primary human interaction is dehumanized and confrontational, that experience starts to bleed through to one’s personal life, and after a while, even the most pleasant human experience starts to feel muted and robotic.

If we were all in the same physical location, our bosses would probably have us do trust falls and play seven minutes in heaven interoffice volleyball games, but we’re not, so generally we keep to ourselves and occasionally rickroll each other.

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