In the past several weeks we’ve seen social media used as sort of a virtual ballot box to advance democratic reform and alter the geopolitcal landscape in the Middle East. These advances are clearly a tremendous upside of the revolution in technology. Who can argue with the web’s flower power?
But clearly there’s a flip side. Reading Stanford psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude’s new book, Virtually You: the Dangerous Power of the E-Personality, makes you consider the danger inherent in the maniacal burst of magical powers that the Internet exudes for many, many people. Life online can become a sort of glass menagerie where one can get lost in fantasy.
Aboujaoude writes about how the Internet is allowing us to create online alter egos – purest forms of our ideal selves, resulting in psychological damage to our real, offline personality. For some, the “send” button has unleashed a new psychopathology that can be downright chilling.
In my latest 1:2:1 podcast I sat down with Aboujaoude to talk about the growing and disturbing phenomena of life online and the dark side of the technological revolution. Aboujaoude said that the picture he portrays is drawn from his work with real life patients in the clinic, and he described how excessive use of the Internet, cell phones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and narcissistic. We also talked about the father of modern psychiatry, Freud, and what he might make of this new online world.
Elias Aboujaoude, MD, is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Impulse Control and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinics at Stanford.