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March 2015

 Part Two

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.                                  

Endless not private written dialogues with some misunderstanding,
little resolution or intimacy
Face-to-Face resolution and growth with privacy?

Intimacy is one of life’s most beautiful gifts.  However, it requires, at the very least, telephone contact where we can hear the tone of voice, giving us about 27% of the total communication between persons.  Intimacy also requires face to face contact with gives each of us 100% of the total verbal and nonverbal communication.  We have to be able to see each other to read important nonverbal communication and touch each other physically.

In real life, a friend is another caring person in your presence whom we are able to speak with directly, reliably and honestly over a long period of time.  They respond with support, care, thoughtfulness, helpful criticism, and sometimes a meaningful confrontation.  They are able to give good and sustainable advice, without competition or jealousy.

Social Networking on the internet, through texting and email, gives us only 3-5% of the total communication while we are trying to use it to solve all kinds of problems, choices and concerns.  Too many people are trying to solve life’s bigger problems such as divorce, abortion or a breakup of a relationship with only this minimal communication resulting in misunderstandings and then the less than ideal choices.  While we feel “continually connected” we rarely feel the full attention that is required.  It becomes much more difficult to achieve a satisfactory resolution.  Therefore intimacy and constructive resolution with integrity gets derailed.
When we get afraid to confront a significant other in person or on the telephone, we hide within a text or email.  A clear response gets blurred, staying there, unsatisfactorily.

While we brag about “being friended” the research on technology tells us we have fewer friends than before.  Many of us miss the telephone communication we used to enjoy and the resulting gatherings we spontaneously used to plan to be together.

When we are concerned, frustrated, unhappy or confused we can dump these feelings in a lot of places on the internet.  We can launch them in confessions site.  We can bully someone we dislike at school.  We can aggressively threaten a person, company or organization.  We can stalk someone through many different sites, while invading their privacy.  We can date someone for months we have never met, only to discover that they don’t show up when they have agreed by email to appear.  We can get lost on the internet, wandering from site to site, while stepping out of real life for multiple hours.

However, it is important to remember that everything we do is on the internet forever.  It is there for anyone (friend or foe) who has the sophistication and/or interest to look at what we have said, done and photographed.  This includes bosses, clients, students, police, employers, federal government, FBI, and anyone interested in reading our applications for college, graduate school or an interesting job.  We forget to think about that carefully before we just add more.  Who are you and what do you look like when you add up everything you have done “out there” in the virtual world?  Everyone has some private actions and reflections that should remain hidden.

       What else, then, can we do, instead when we feel concern or unhappiness?  First, we need to remember that our negative feelings are our very best friends because they tell us clearly when something is going wrong.  We can consult, as needed, with a parent, friend, boss, lover, or a professional.  Our negative feelings, once expressed honestly, will tell what is happening and the change to we need to make to be able to feel better.  As soon as we take action on that advice the negative feelings will go away because they have done their job satisfactorily.  This kind of circumstance and interaction is a circumscribed private event.  Such action resolves depression, anxiety and frustration.  It does not belong on the internet for anyone to see.
       By the way, what has happened to our signatures?  We have to print out names before giving a signature because we no longer form letters.  It is just a scribble.  Is this another indication that we have become confused about who we really are, and what we are really doing with life?



Lack of Direction

       Research suggests that the average person sends 4000 emails a month.  What might happen if we were to take 1000 of them to make a constructive plan to create or join a new organization or established charity to take care of the many problems we face at this time in our country and internationally.  We have poverty, health problems, global warming, war, refugees, immigrant children, animal care, homelessness, lack of water, and so much more.

       All of these concerns need much more of a contribution from each one of us.  We could use our easy access to each other through the internet to make constructive plans to meet face to face to help those who are in need.  We could literally change the world into a much better place.  We could be kinder to each other instead of hurtful in dysfunctional and lonely ways.  We could, then, feel more proud of what we have done rather than worn out by the endless random communications, and flood of advertisements that crowd out the information we are attempting to acquire.  We could “make a difference” which, by the way, is another way to build self-esteem.
We all need to take the time to think carefully about these four challenges.  If we can go back to the choices we still had before the internet, and use the internet in ways that advance life on this planet; then we have clearly have moved ahead of where we were before.  The challenge of life is to use the new inventions in ways that continue to create success, intimacy, resolution, and growth, that sustains us, the economy, and the planet.



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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