The Not So Social World Of The Internet And The Social Media

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In a previous article, I have discussed how computers literally provide an alternate world to the world of organic primary experience. Unlike the world of organic primary experience found in more natural environments, a digital computer screen does not contain the organic blendable continual stimuli that are necessary in order to give a person a sense of bonding with and grounding in the external world. A computer screen is filled with discrete digital pinpoints that create all the images that a person can see on the screen. The pinpoints create discrete digital images and, surrounding the images, there are vacuum spaces filled with infinite continuous stimuli. People use these screens as a way of getting balanced configurations of defined discrete stimuli and infinite continuous stimuli, which, in today’s world, are normally the components of vacuum and tension pocket configurations of stimuli within modern technological living environments. These vacuum and tension pocket configurations create sensory distortion – understimuliation and overstimulation – which has all kinds of pathological effects on a person’s mental health.

In truth, although people strive for balanced stimuli configurations on a computer, using discrete digital stimuli and infinite continuous stimuli, these configurations, because they lack organic blendable continual stimuli, also have pathological effects on the mental health of people. And it is not only the physical configurations of stimuli on the screen that can be harmful. It is also the configurations of ideational content on websites that can be harmful as well. Within the vacuum backdrop of the computer screen, there are people who are drawn to the sharply defined discrete websites on the Internet that deal with racial, ethnic and religious hate. White supremacist websites are very popular. Also religious hate websites from the Middle East. On one level, a hate site is a way of jolting a person out of the numbness that comes in immersing oneself in a vacuum computer screen backdrop and in living in a sensorily distorted modern technological living environment.

This does not mean that the computer causes the hate in the person. Rather, the person uses his pre-existing hate as a vehicle for fighting the numbing and even castrating effects of the ongoing smooth frictionless interactions with the computer on the Internet. In other words the numbness aggravates and further activates the hate. Anyway, there are also sharply defined discrete websites that deal with lots of other kinds of violence. Like sites built on the execution of war and building bombs. These sites stimulate violent tendencies in people. Tendencies that would possibly remain more dormant, if people didn’t have such websites to recur to.

Many sites act as gathering places for people with similar violent views to work together. For example, sites for terrorist groups. People with certain hate philosophies who are isolated, suddenly have the means to find others with whom they can work together to carry out acts of violence. Websites can help such groups to organize, grow and flourish.

Again, the vacuum base of the empty screen in all the different devices of consumer technology stimulates numbness. The worlds of discrete pinpoints of data stimuli mixed with the infinite continuous stimuli of the vacuum base form a configuration of stimuli that for most people acts as a way of balancing the vacuum and tension pocket stimuli that are experienced as sensory distortion in the modern technological living environments of the world today. Most people pull out of the numbness of the vacuum base of the computer screen without a need for hate and violence to feel alive. But for a certain group of people, particularly certain men, the vacuum base of the screen as well as the vacuum elements created as part of modern technological living environments are disempowering, even psychologically castrating. Hate and violence are a focused figured way for people to jolt themselves to life and to deny the internal disempowerment, the psychological castration.

Pornography is another way particularly for men to jolt themselves to life. It is all too often either a substitute for normal sexual relationships or an enhancer of sex for people who cannot get easily stimulated in the sexual act by normal means. Frequently, pornography is infused with violence as a special added stimulant for men who have difficulty functioning sexually in more normal circumstances. But there is no question but that pornography in all manifestations is often intimately connected with sexual numbness.

Now I am not talking here about an occasional exploration by an adolescent male who uses non-violent pornography as a way of becoming more comfortable with the opposite sex. But the Internet makes it so easy to view and collect pornography relatively anonymously. So even people of whom one would not suspect such involvement, like members of conservative religious groups, can fall into an obsessive interest.

And then there are the people who collect the most dangerous pornography of all: child pornography. Dangerous because it involves the traumatic violation of a child’s innocence. Granted that some of the people involved in this horrendous pastime do get discovered through undercover police operations on the part of different governments. No matter how many people get found out, many many more remain active in the creation, the Internet marketing and the Internet purchasing of this dreadful material. Again, Internet child pornography is an act of discrete figured aggression against helpless humans by people who are numb, at least partly as a result of the vacuum base and the static in their modern technological living environment as well as the vacuum base of the computer itself. And, in general, it is no accident that hate sites and pornography sites are so popular on the Internet.

Now one could argue that the Internet is the home to many positive virtual associations such as self-help groups and interest groups. On the Internet, one can target-contact lots of people who have the same problem or illness one has, and compare notes about strategies for dealing with such problems. Or one can target-contact people who have the same political or social cause or the same hobbies one has. The problem is that there are only twenty-four hours in a day. When a person spends a lot of time on the Internet with groups that have lots of people, he is basically going to be spending a lot of time in shallow relationships with people that he is likely to have never met in person. This means that the person is spending less and less time in deep-bonded relationships in the external world. It is the deep-bonded relationships that help give a person organic grounding and help the person to deal a little better with sensory distortion.

And Facebook friends, LinkedIn friends and Twitter friends are no substitute for the flesh and blood friends that are in one’s life in the external world. There are many people who spend hour after hour on Facebook posting what they are doing that day; about trips they have taken; concerts they have attended; parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs or funerals that they were at. And then people comment on their posts: “How I wish I was there.”, “You look absolutely marvelous in that dress”, “Your son looks just like you”, etc. And then the original commenters comment on the posts of the people who have responded. In the old days, people spent their evenings talking with family in the kitchen, with neighbors in the yard, with friends on the street or in different people’s homes or in a restaurant. Grounded connections filled with the organic blendable continual stimuli of bonding. Instead of always looking at the vacuum base of the computer screen. Yes, it is truly nice to make connections with friends from our past, friends who live far away and friends from our past who live far away. But all of us, in order to be fully human, need the primary experiences that come from face-to-face contact with people who are here with us where we live in the present. The seductive world of Facebook can carry us away from the primary experiences with flesh-and-blood people, experiences where we can make, receive and preserve meaningful imprints in situations that stimulate us to life and help us to prepare for death. When used in moderation, Facebook does allow us to maintain a connection with people with whom we might otherwise not be connected. However, when it becomes an obsession, Facebook can isolate us from real life. Underlying all internet connections is the numbing vacuum of cyberspace. A numbness that can have many kinds of pathological effects on the human mind and on the human life narrative.

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

1 comentario en «The Not So Social World Of The Internet And The Social Media»
  1. Excellent article!!!! It describes the so well the emptiness and vacuum that so many of us are feeling in our real relations with our companions.
    Dr. Jorge Cappon


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