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Is Turning On My Computer, Turning Me Off?

Is Turning On My Computer, Turning Me Off?

Stacey O'Gorman explores how technology can impact libido. 
By Stacey O'Gorman

After spending the last year studying full-time online, ingesting and sharing far too much content from the interweb, I started to feel a decline in my sex drive.

As we know, libido can be affected by a number of different biological, psychological, and social factors including hormone imbalances, relationship dynamics, stress, pandemics, the list goes on.

This abrupt halt in my sexy tracks of course could have manifested from any, or all, of the above, but my intuition felt strongly that my newfound technology addiction was the root cause of this poignant pause.

Now, before I launch into smack-talking my beloved laptop and phone, allow me to express a moment of gratitude for all the nourishing ways they have feed my sex life. Without them, I couldn’t access my favourite apps such as Dipsea (chíc audio porn for women), MyFlo (period tracker, with sexy tips), and Spotify (sexy tunes and endless educational podcasts on sexuality and pleasure). I couldn't access my online studies, there would be no more erotic films by Erica Lust and I could no longer log into my Beducated account to perfect my Lingham massage skills. These electronic objects have watered and fed my initially small sex garden into a pleasure-filled and expansive jungle.

In saying that, lately I have found myself waking up from many a technology trance (a little more than I’d care to admit). I’ve noticed myself spending more time on my phone and laptop than ever before. I speak of boundaries often, yet with this relationship, they have become seriously lazy. We’re together just before I close my eyes at night, they basically sleep on top of me and their sweet blue light is the first visual of the day. 

I had convinced myself that this year would be the sexiest of my life. Studying sex full-time, I was under the impression that I would be magnetising ecstatic lovers and travelling to the cosmos on the daily through wild cervical orgasms. Yet, much to my dismay (and like the Tui ad), it’s been an elongated moment of ‘Yeah, right’.

I’ve been in learning mode, business building mode, podcast mode, work mode. And one thing I know to be true about my sexual desire, is that it requires me to slow down. Do less mind stuff to get more into my body. And in my technology trace, I have forgotten to do enough of this. 

So I turned to my friend and neuroscientist Sam Dodd, asking if he could shed some light on my ponderings, this is what he had to say:

"Sexual drive and libido can be increased in anyone and technology will help elucidate how."

“Whilst it’s well known that chronic stress isn’t good for us, we may not realise the toll it takes on our libido. Because the body interprets ongoing stress as life-threatening, it naturally prioritises survival over reproduction or pleasure. In today’s world, many people are simply worn out as a result of balancing jobs, marriage, our unprecedented times, or caring for ageing parents and young children.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating aspects of mood, cognition, and behaviour including sexual motivation and reward seeking. Excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate stimulate sexual desire and arousal. Inhibitory neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin facilitate sexual reward and satiety. Decreased libido can be the result of reduced excitatory activity or increased inhibitory activity. 

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, concerns are being raised as to how this affects libido. While this field of research is new, undoubtedly technology negatively impacts human behaviours and physiology in a way that downstream affects sexual drive and desire.

Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk. Sleep is truly interdisciplinary because it touches every aspect of health.

One thing we know for certain is that technology interferes with our sleep. More so than any other colour, blue light messes with your body's ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a hormone called melatonin that makes you sleepy. On top of this, the content we choose to engage with in a technological context can make us feel stimulated or stressed. This also results in production of hormones such as adrenalin, which prevents us from getting quality sleep.

Sleep is the platform on which healthy levels of neurotransmitters and hormones are regulated. Disrupting this, as technology does, immediately imbalances our neurochemistry and unfortunately libido is impacted immediately and directly.

Technology undoubtedly has upsides and impacts everyone in different ways. Many people form positive relationships with technology and social media, using it as a tool for healthy social interaction and learning. For some people it introduces a level of stress and anxiety, for others these emotional responses become chronic and debilitating. Permanently elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol is incredibly damaging to the body and the mind. Unsurprisingly this alters the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, which directly regulate sexual function and desire. As mentioned above, being in ‘fight or flight’ mode leads to a prioritisation of survival functions in the body and sexual drive and the pursuit of pleasure can become entirely abolished.

As the field of science becomes more and more conscious of this issue, more evidence will be unearthed on the extent of this issue and the mechanisms underlying it. Unfortunately more ways in which technology can negatively impact libido will come to the fore. However, technology can be used in countless ways and although it may be causing issues now, it may be used in the future to help reverse many of these deficits. The brain is malleable and adaptable and levels of chemicals in the brain can be restored and positively modulated. Sexual drive and libido can be increased in anyone and technology will help elucidate how.”

"I’m ok with having sexual lulls...I can’t be expected to sexually thrive 24/7."

So, in conclusion, my intuition was right. Technology most definitely affects our sexual desire. I felt inspired by my newfound learnings so I put it to the test. This labour weekend I took myself into nature for two days without any reception. No Instagram to scroll, no emails to respond to, just me, a friend, some edibles, and the wild west coast. And it worked. I came back renewed and quite honestly, a little hornier than before. 

I’m ok with having sexual lulls. I’ve lived it before and I’ll live it again. But the more I get to know myself, the more I understand my body's wise and seasonal nature. I can’t be expected to sexually thrive 24/7. This is an illusion. It’s ok to go through celibate, sexless patches. It's ok to use your sexual energy to create and build instead of sharing it with others. It’s ok to lose yourself in work and life from time to time and then find your way back home. 

But If I’m keen to feel more desire, and perhaps magnetise some of that post-sex-school summer lovin’, I best be chilling out on my screen time and spending a little more time getting naked, dancing, and swimming in waterfalls. 

That’s all from me. Stay safe, stay sexy, 

Stacey O 

Stacey O'Gorman

– Sex Coach & Podcast Host

Stacey is a Holistic Sex Coach, and Maitre d' of the new podcast, ‘Finger Food’. She is based in Auckland, New Zealand.