If there is not a speciality developing in psychology that deals with this area, then it is probably on the way. And what area is that? Anytime you and I get online there is a good chance that we might act a little differently than how we might act in person. This is not limited to online surfing, or chat rooms, but carries on in our email correspondence all the time.
How many times do you get mad at some person, and rather than dealing with it face to face, or at least over the phone, you fire up some email and before you really have time to think about it, you hit send. And moments later, you have that feeling of, “oh man, I don’t know if I should have done that.” Somewhere along the way we lost our ability to communicate in person. But I don’t think this affects everyone, but rather those of us who were trained in the computer era, and even more so for those who were born into it in the last 15 years or so.
But in that exchange, a disconnect occurs that may have never occurred if one was not invisible in a sense behind a computer. Email is only one area where this phenomenon is taking place. It also takes place in the blogosphere, where people will post comments in response to a blog, or a blogger will post an entry, without any regards to some of the content. People will get flamed, reputations trashed, etc., all with a few strokes of the keyboard. But somehow it feels safe behind a computer, when there is the great chance you will never run into that person, ever.
What about chat rooms, or sites that connect social circles, and bring people together. This is the area that has concerned me the most as of late. These sites combine a little of everything. Email. Blogs. Bios. Comments. Photos. Music. Etc. If you want it all, it is there. And it is in this arena that I have begun to see the dualing personalities of a person. People posting things, saying things that I don’t think they would ever say in person. They do so feeling a sense of anonymity, not realizing that they are not anonymous….that could not be farther from the truth. And in fact, all of their stuff is there, for the record, for public consumption.
I’ve had parents as of recent stumble onto one of their child’s spots on a website, shocked to find out that their child, who is living under their roof, is carrying about in this totally different manner.
We come to church on Sunday, put on our Sunday best, say the right things, but behind the computer it a whole other thing at times.
I am a fan of the world wide web. I am a fan of the blogosphere. All of these things have brought a lot of amazing things, and have created amazing communities that did not exist before. Years ago I did not have the privilege of hopping onto sites, and exchanging ideas with different bloggers when I was in seminary. Now I can move back and forth between hundreds of them, and have some of the most amazing exchanges.
But with great freedom also comes great responsibility. And I did something the other night that I thought I would never do. I created a space at My Space. This is something I ridiculed others for doing, but in the end, I thought I would create a site, only to advertise my blog (they hypocrite I am at times). I’m still not sure if I will keep the space or not. And I’m concerned about the dangers of anonymously building social networks with people you have no clue about. Call me a prude, but I think there are dangers. For now though, I will have to see if I keep My Space Rhett Smith.
Whatever our personality is, minus the computer and internet, there is always the danger of pushing the boundaries in cyberspace. If you don’t think there are any dangers, or temptations in this, then you haven’t visited Campus Hook, which for me is basically short for “campus hookup.” Go on this site and you will see how easily sex is pedaled across the social groups like it is nothing. And the cheapness of sex is not my only concern, but it is the most obvious.
There is a phrase floating around the internet somewhere, but I have not been able to track it down. But it is a new area of research that deals with people’s cyber identities, and how they take them online, when they would never be that idenity in person. If you know this technical term, or area, please let me know.
But for now…happy surfing, but think twice before posting a comment, or firing off an email to someone.