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Archive for September, 2009

Seth Grobman, Psy.D.

As my years of conducting psychotherapy accumulate, I cannot help but notice how much more time my patients take to discuss their relationships within the context of social networking.  As you know, social networking (My Space, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has become a mode of connecting and communicating that has literally changed a human being’s way of relating to the world.  I would be so bold as to say that its impact is analogous to the invention of the telephone.  Relationships are profoundly altered: they are intensified, they are more easily severed; the network is truly the “fly’s wall!”  Access and convenience seem to be the variables that have caused this societal paradigm shift.  And it will only become easier to rely upon these tools as time goes by.  We will NEVER be able to go in reverse.

Isn’t it interesting, however, that patients will “talk” about their social networking interactions?  “Let’s discuss in a very direct way my issues about my indirect mode of communicating!”  More  often than not, however, I will find myself more interested in talking with my patients about the thoughts and feelings that come with social networking “issues.”  At times, it seems as if someone will be so compelled by their “page,” “space” or “wall,” that it is unclear as to what it is with which they are dealing.  Is it self or other?  It seems that after the layers are peeled back, the greatest allure for people is the fact that they have impact.  The power of written word (or vid or pic) is undeniably profound.  People WILL read what one  has to say, regardless of the value of the content.  And after all is said and done, one thing will never change for a person.  He needs to be heard.  My point is that the power of social networking seems to be in the need to be seen, rather than to see.  It seems obvious that people tend to be voyeuristic, but what is not as easily acknowledged is that people wish to exhibit, to be on stage, to be heard (for better or worse).

This is not to say that  psychopathology is afoot.  It may be that the issue of degree and impact is what differentiates adaptation versus problem.  Too much of a good thing?  How does it affect one’s conduct in other aspects of life.  The media throws around the word addiction to describe the phenomenon of  “facebook” but the issue is of compulsive behavior.  To feel compelled to do something is analogous to feeling a lack of options or choice; it must happen.  This type of behavior almost always is accompanied by neglect in other sectors of one’s life.  Simply put, it is quite powerful how much time people dedicate to social networking at the expense of other forms of communication!  People would rather dedicate their time to the communication modality of social networking than to the primitive, antiquated ….. talking!  I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic and, if possible, your personal experiences with social networking.  Look, I’d love to continue this conversation, but I just got a text…someone just wrote on my wall!!!!!!!! 😉

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