Sherry Turkle the MIT technologist and psychotherapist has used the term Perfect Storm to describe the time we are living in with technology, social networking and screen mediated communication.
What can therapy and therapists contribute to an increasing dialogue about the effect of technology immersion, the exponential growth of data sharing, the public/private erosion, and our hyper connected world?
Well firstly let's take a look at Kranzberg’s Law of technology from the 1986 - "Technology is neither good nor bad, but nor neutral".
Example one: A work colleague explodes with rage at being ignored for the third time, trying to contact a neighbour by phone but getting texts back.
Example two: A student who is feeling desperate tries phoning a best friend only to get a Facebook message “can’t you tell me on FB”.
These two examples may well strike a familiar chord with most of us. Technology is providing unimaginable connections but it also means we can be overwhelmed very quickly and hence we attempt to control the endless intrusion, perhaps at the expense of face or phone time. When teenagers approach an average of 4000 texts per month we can deduce that they are getting some impingement every 7/8 minutes of the waking cycle. This ignores any other updates such as Twitter feeds, Whatsaap, Email and Instant Messenger.
This can leave us feeling bereft; we may have hundreds of friends on Facebook yet feel lonely. We may have hundreds of followers on Twitter yet feel curiously needy of attention deep down.
Aaron Balick in his book “The Psychodynamics of Social Networking” develops the theme of the false self or Jung’s Persona, in essence a public face that we present which may be very different to the person we feel inside. Balick thinks that Social Networking plays on the False Self and indeed may require amplification. We get the chance to rewrite ourselves and our presentations and pictures many times online, but this in itself may contribute to “not being known”.
Psychotherapy and Counselling still prizes the sacred uninterrupted dynamic between two people. When it works well, the relating and attunement of the therapist and client can provide powerful healing in the deepest sense of the word. More therapy is now being provided online or mediated through screens. This can be hugely beneficial for some but ultimately I think human connection is what we seek.
We recognise ourselves in others. What is it like to see a human face respond to us in the quiet space of the therapy room? What can we learn about ourselves in that space? If outside we seem to be ever more distracted by technology, this space becomes ever more unique in what it offers to clients. That focussed time was said by a client to be “enchanting”.
We may now be at a point where we have to actively think about “analogue” connection as opposed to “digital”. That may be getting more difficult.
Beeban Kidron’s Film InRealLife is a stark reminder to us of how much we are now immersed in technology/smart phones/Internet and also how we are in effect “becoming data”.
A good therapist will treat you as anything but data, and this may be an experience worth seeking at times of distress.
- Balick A. (2013) The Psychodynamics of Social Networking. Karnac
- Kidron B (2012) InRealLife, Dog Wolf Productions
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