Social media competes with sex...and wins, survey says

A UK study sees a first-ever drop in sexual activity among young Britons, and researchers suspect gadgets in the bedroom could be partly to blame.

A survey finds sexual partners could be increasingly shunned in favor of digital companionship.
Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

If this whole social-media thing continues like it's been going for the past decade, we could be transformed into sexless robots in the next 50 years.

At least, that's the very non-scientific prediction I arrive at after cherry-picking one particularly disturbing data point from the most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. The survey, which is conducted in the UK just once a decade, is led by the University College London in partnership with researchers from the National Centre for Social Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The results of the third such survey were published Tuesday and found that of the 15,000 Britons surveyed those between the ages of 16 and 44 are having sex fewer than five times a month on average. That figure is down from more than six times a month in the first two surveys, which were conducted in the totally Web-less days of 1990-91 and the jumbled online mess era of 1999-2001 -- when AOL or were probably the closest things to social networks available.

The main culprit for the drop in dirty deeds (speaking from the puritanical pilgrim perspective, this being Thanksgiving week and me being an American talking about randy Brits) seems to be modern life itself. In particular, the stresses associated with both underemployment and overemployment, as well as a drop in marriage and cohabitation, appear to be reducing the overall opportunities to get down.

But the researchers also point fingers at another lifestyle choice as a potential cause of the relative dearth of snogging and smashing:

"We also think modern technologies are behind the trend too," Dr. Cath Mercer, from University College London, told the BBC. "People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails."

Mercer also suggests that the rise of online pornography could play a role in the decline. I, for one, have no idea what she's talking about there.

All I know is something needs to be done about this trend before we forget how to sustain our species. So remember this holiday season, that in bed it's often more fun to grab hold of the headboard...than Flipboard.