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February 2015

 Part One

By Dorothea McArthur Ph.D., ABPP

“Online, social networks instruct us to share whenever there’s “something on our mind” no matter how ignorant or ill considered, and then help us broadcast it to the widest possible audience. Everyday each of us is bombarded by other people’s random thoughts...People can end up feeling that the only deliberate act is the decision to hand oneself over to the Net. After that, one is swept along.” Sherry Turkle, MIT researcher and author of ALONE TOGETHER p. 276
Technology can be difficult because people may not feel as strong as its pull. The biggest gift the internet has given us is an incredible amount of new information to access quickly and easily. A rich future may also need a more private past. We can take both the information and the time to choose a more ethical, rational, deliberate response by considering the following four challenges.

Hold up your own self esteem
Ask your cell phone to do it for you?

Yes, we all have to put time into maintaining a positive and active presence on the internet with websites that describe our work in order to maintain visibility and success with earning an income.

However, many people have discovered that they are unable to separate from their cell phones without feeling a whole lot of anxiety. They are unable to leave their cell phone behind at home when they venture into the world to take a vacation from social media by “going off the grid.” They drive dangerously while texting because they have to answer the latest message before they reach their destination. They are unable to resist answering a text within ten minutes or email immediately when they are in the presence of a significant others out for dinner or other entertainment. Every day brings hours of time with social networking to count the “likes” “dislikes,” “friends” and “unfriended.” and to compare their life as they have presented it online with others’ presentations. A lot of the resulting interaction is a never ending superficial competition without resolution. How has this come to be?

Perhaps these people have decided to turn building their self esteem over to their cell phone. If they miss a single communication, their self esteem feels threatened, which causes major anxiety. These persons are becoming psychologically “externally directed.” They are overly dependent on other peoples’ opinions of themselves. Face book friends become anybody, everybody, just fans, no longer individuals. They act as if “addicted “to their cell phones. They have forsaken creative thinking time and day dreaming to gain an accurate personal intelligence about themselves that then directs and formats life goals and a resulting positive self esteem.

Some people try to create a perfect ideal self with robots, avatars, and Second Selves. However, all of the good qualities developed remain in the virtual world instead of integrating what has been created in the virtual world back into the real world. Therefore, it is becoming more acceptable to lead mediocre or even corrupt, dishonest life within the real world.
There is a much better way to build self esteem without tension and anxiety. When we are children, parents are hopefully there to guide us in seeing ourselves positively. However, when we become an adult, it is a job that we have to take on ourselves. We cannot give the job of holding up our self esteem to anyone else because others have their life full holding up their own self esteem.

You are the only one who can possibly decide what is best for you to do with your own life because you know yourself better than anyone else ever will. It becomes a huge relief when we decide to take on this task, because doing it ourselves allows us to be in control of a positive outcome. You will need to designate times to go “off the grid” to have time for solitude, thinking, assessment, creativity, family or romantic time without interruption, a walk with nature, mediation or a concert.

Then you can decide what you want to do, and do it. Allow yourself to be proud of what you have done. If you do not do what you have decided to do, confront yourself and get back to work. Remember that whatever you decide to do, some persons will approve, some won’t, and some won’t notice one way or the other because everyone is different. It is your decision about your life, others should not be expected to validate or disapprove. Those who like what you have decided will, more than likely, be your friends.

Nature and People
Loneliness on the streets.

I walk my dogs twice daily on the streets. Lots of people go by, some with pets, some with children. I watch out for others and make sure that I step aside with my two large dogs to let others pass easily. I used to be able to make eye contact with other people, sometimes they would notice my care and say “Thank you” or “Good morning.” Now, I am continually surprised at how many of the millennium generation pass me by with no recognition at all because they are completely plugged into their cell phones. They also never seem to look up at the beautiful scenery around them, to notice flowers, sunsets, the moon, tall trees or people passing by.
Could we consider taking a break from the almighty cell phone just long enough each day to notice that there is a world out there that is beautiful and needs to be cared for so that it will survive to go on giving us a place to live?  Can we continue to acknowledge or even talk with a stranger outdoors as a way of keeping aloneness away.

Our biggest challenge in the next 30 years is global warming. We have to be able to see our world to be able to save it? Our stores that sell products about nature have all gone out of business. The average person spends less than one hour in the sun. Can we take the time out of doors for a walking meditation or time to think about our world without being interrupted with another internet message?

NEXT MONTH: Challenges 3 and 4


Dr. McArthur is a Diplomate Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Silverlake, and is President of the Independent Psychotherapy Network.  Dr. McArthur can be reached at 323-663-2340 or

Copyright 2015 by Dorothea McArthur PhD, ABPP


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