If the pandemic wasn’t a surreal enough experience, a recent study suggests that lockdown has amplified a disturbing trend. Research by sex toy company WeVibe revealed that 14 per cent of men admit to being aroused by their smart-speaker Alexa, which confirms my view that we have been sleepwalking into a different kind of epidemic – one of loneliness and fear of intimacy.
I’ve been a practising psychotherapist for 20 years, and never have I worked with so many men and women who are unhappy and scared because their deepest attachments and primary source of arousal are through interacting with their tech. I call these people ‘technosexuals’.
Technosexuals are joined – as though surgically – to their favourite gadgets. Whether it’s the ‘ping’ of a message, swiping right, or the seductive, authoritative tones of a cloud-based voice service, their tech fulfils them by mobilising the reward system in the brain and releasing dopamine – the ‘happiness hormone’.
The instant activity of using their tech – likes and comments – is like a sexual turn on. This ‘dopamine hit’ happens in all of us but, in technosexuals, something else is at play.
For them, the modern digital world influences all their libidinous activity. It dictates who they fancy, and how they present and value themselves.
You could be dating a techosexual without even realising it. They are great at screen chat, yet not so great at the face-to-face authenticity required to begin or sustain a relationship. The tech they carry around has become such a handy dopamine stimulator, it’s like having a sex toy in their pocket – human intercourse no longer cuts it.
The reason why some of us can sustain a healthy relationship with tech, while others can’t, comes down to a deep-seated fear of intimacy – the main trait of the technosexual, which being at home, often alone, has only intensified.