Who are you? Are there two yous? Increasingly, we have two personas, one we exhibit in person and an entirely different one. This is something that is all new in our society, and something brought on by the internet. Our personas and our behavior does change when we go online. A ground-breaking book helps us understand way.
Jon Ronson titles his review of Mary Akind’s book, “The Cyber Effect,” “Offline Jekylls, Online Hydes,” and it is apt, because while in person we typically adhere to what we feel “polite society” demands, offline we often are different people, sometimes people who are unrecognizable to our family and close friends. Here is part of what Ronson offers:
“This is her provocative and at times compelling thesis: The internet — “the largest unregulated social experiment of all time,” in the words of the clinical psychologist Michael Seto — is turning us, as a species, more mentally disordered, anxious, obsessive, narcissistic, exhibitionist, body dysmorphic, psychopathic, schizophrenic. All this might unleash a “surge in deviant, criminal and abnormal behavior in the general population.” We check our mobile devices 1,500 times a week, sometimes even secretly, before the plane’s pilot tells us it’s safe. Our ethics have become so impaired that some of us take selfies in front of people threatening to jump from bridges. (Having spent years with people disproportionately shamed on social media for some minor transgression, I can attest to how the internet can rob people of empathy.)”
“She paints an evocative image of sitting on a train to Galway, watching a woman breast-feed her baby: “The baby was gazing foggily upward . . . looking adoringly at the mother’s jaw, as the mother continued to gaze adoringly at her device.” How will such a seemingly tiny behavioral shift like less eye contact between mother and baby play out over time? Aiken asks. “This small and simple thing, millions of babies around the world getting less eye contact and less one-on-one attention, could result in an evolutionary blip. Yes, I said it. Evolutionary blip. Less eye contact could change the course of human civilization.””
Thought provoking? You can read the full article here