It was not so long ago that lovers and business partners separated by hundreds if not thousands of miles only had the Pony Express to meet the need for communication. Now we have the Internet. The Internet allows us to pursue our passions in life. Certainly, it makes gathering information easier and allows us to follow people who share our passions.
The internet offers us an intensification –amplification –electrification -digitization of human consciousness. It is the creation of a digitized social field of immense proportions. The Internet has given us fantastic tools to help us reach out and touch each other and this leads to touching ourselves in profoundly new ways that makes us happy. Internet use empowers people by increasing their ability to communicate, which yields increased feelings of ‘security, personal freedom and influence.’
We can meet others online that will help us keep abreast of everything happening in our principle areas of interest. It can go even further and fulfill us by giving us a channel to actually help others. It gives us a bully pulpit with the capacity to send our messages out to a large number of people all over the world and people will listen if we have something interesting or profound to say. “Mastering a new technology – whatever the technology is — contributes to the atmosphere of growth in your life, and that boosts happiness,” wrote Gretchen Rubin.
So strong has the digital age become that the vision of the future in which human and machine morph into a monstrous hybrid exists already in some of our brightest minds. Google’s cofounder Sergey Brin recently declared, “We want to make Google the third half of your brain.” Brin and Larry Page are unabashed enthusiasts and promoters of what has come to be known as “the Singularity,” a vision of the near future in which human beings and machines merge so that illness, old age, and even death become things of the past.
These people have gone over the deep end however; there is no doubt that we can do greater things with our technology that without. Many of us are not waiting for anyone and are already using the amplifying power of digital life to its potential. Some people really go off the deep end and end up living more in the virtual world than in the real world and this has made sociopaths out of some of them. Some people are so used to interacting with people in the virtual world that they no longer know how to interact with real people. Lives have been wrecked by Internet addictions.
The virtual world is a place where unknown dangers lurk. Lonely women have been lured to their deaths by strangers whom they met on the net. Pedophiles on the prowl in the virtual world assume the identities of children to lure innocent children into their trap. It is also a place to begin revolutions as the Arab Spring demonstrated.
Gretchen Rubin writes, “Everyone from ancient philosophers to contemporary researchers agrees that the KEY to happiness is strong ties to other people. We need close, long-term relationships, we need to be able to confide in others, we need to belong, we need to give and receive support. Studies show that if you have five or more friends with whom to discuss an important matter you’re far more likely to describe yourself as very happy.”
Not all of us are that lucky to find five or more friends and some of us can find ourselves with hardly a soul in which to confide our deepest vulnerabilities. Society in general is against openness, honesty and the sharing of vulnerabilities, which are viewed by modern man as a weakness when the truth is that the most vulnerable person is the strongest.
However, online life has offered millions of people communication with others. Virtual communication among perspective lovers who use online dating services gives people an opportunity to learn about others from the inside out. Without the distraction of physical desires people concentrate on pure communication. Happiness and love are beacons to center our life path on so it behooves us to communicate more and in deeper fashion. Movements in these directions enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.
John Suler’s follow-up to his groundbreaking The Psychology of Cyberspace explores what it means to be human in this digital age. Suler captures the challenges facing us as we integrate and translate our analog lives – and even our relationships – into digital.
Health and Medicine in the Digital Age
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of the Internet is in the area of health and medicine. One no longer has to be dependent on your local doctor who adheres to his pharmaceutical brainwashing in medical school, which puts blinders on them just as they do on racehorses. The Internet gives everyone access to many views on health and medical issues so that one can decide for oneself what is best and what outright quackery is. There is no need to be passive patients who just swallow what the doctor says.
Only the most ignorant people discount the Internet as an unreliable source of information. It is the biggest library in the world by far and one can find practically anything on it. It is true that much of the information found is garbage but if one has a truth seeking heart and mind one can sift through the rubbish to find what is needed and wanted.
Today one can do therapy online as well as medical consultations. It is possible for some people to get closer to another online than many can in person. People who use the Internet for dating sometimes find it easier to get to know someone online because it is inner world to inner world while many of the inhibitions cast aside.
The Dark Side of the Net
There is a dark side to the net that mirrors the dark side of humanity. We have daily instances of Cyberwar, Cyberterrorism, and Cybercrime. The elite of the world are not comfortable with the free flow of information the Internet provides and are constantly plotting to change the Internet into something that is less free than it is today. Governments like China heavily censor the Internet use of their citizens and governments like the U.S. use it to spy. Pornography is seen as evil by many; and it is only a click away when sitting in front of a computer. Online addiction is a problem for old and young alike but for the young they grow up today spending more time in front of their computer than they do playing with friends outside in the sun.
In Psychology Today we read, “The digital psychological disconnect; namely, that of diminished emotional awareness and connections, can emerge when a society interacts increasingly more with devices than directly with people. Some of the routes may be as follows: 1.) a digital community allows for blunt and truncated expression of one’s thoughts (e.g., text messages) and one’s emotions (e.g., emojis); or 2.) its anonymity emboldens people to express very harsh opinions about others or their endeavors; or 3.) It allows for instant cyberspace-available judgments about others that are widespread and difficult to delete; or 4.) a decrease of intimate and private expression of emotions regarding oneself and others.”
Humanity and digital life are only in the beginnings with digital life threatening to intensify as technology takes us to places that are more sophisticated.
Digital life also makes our civilization and we much more vulnerable to complete collapse because EMP pulses from nuclear weapons or a great flair from the sun (like happened during the era of telegraph lines) could take the entire system down. Try getting money out of an ATM without the Internet.
To balance out the downsides there are tremendous upsides like crypto currencies, which potentially offer us freedom from the criminal banking sector but already governments are threatening this as well.
Bottom line, once we as individuals and as societies become dependent on the Internet there is no going back, though someday we might be forced to.