Internet Dependence

In the 1960s, one improvement in the technological field was computerized psychotherapy.  This program was designed to simply repeat back what the patient had stated, making them feel like they were in the midst of a genuine conversation with the computer.  Computerized therapy was one of the aspects that contributed to contemporary internet, and influenced people’s feelings of anxious individualism by providing people with an outlet to vent and feel as if they were in an individualized bubble.  Today, individuals are constantly using the internet, and it seems as if not much has changed in how cyberspace influences people.  With a longing to be emotionally and mentally healed and secure, people do not realize that they are only hurting their self-sufficiency and personal growth.

I strongly believe that the internet is a great contribution to anxious individualism.  HyperNormalisation declared that, since the internet was structured to have the individual as the focus by personalizing responses through the computerized therapy, it was reassuring to those frightened of the future to be able to escape to the comfortable realm of cyberspace where the world was simplified and secure.  Computerized psychotherapy and the contemporary internet both posses the ability to envelop a user’s mindset in contentment and simplicity, which supports the idea that modern cyberspace stemmed from computer therapy.

The main reason I believe computerized therapy is directly related to the internet is because these systems contribute to consumer dependence.  In the computer therapy program labeled ELIZA, a patient was seated in front of a screen and allowed to type and communicate their issues with the system.  The system was designed to essentially repeat back to the patient what they had initially said, allowing them to feel as if a legitimate therapeutic conversation was occurring.  Eventually, these patients experienced the “ELIZA effect”, the overwhelming emotion that the program they were communicating with was realistic and empathetic towards their personal situation; people treated ELIZA, an inanimate object, as if it were a person.  These people failed from grasping the concept that they were not conferring with a physical human being and, even further, reacted as if they had been emotionally healed, while hypocritically returning soon after to go through the therapeutic process all over again.  I believe that ELIZA created a sense of dependence within the patient because they continued to return, seeking psychotherapeutic healing from the program even though they’d always leave with the impression that they had been helped, only to return again with issues.  These reliant patients depended on ELIZA because they believed that the “program [was] much more sophisticated, much more intelligent, than it really was” (legacy of ELIZA therapy); they gave the therapy much more credit than it deserved.

The internet, similar to ELIZA, is also depended on by countless people.  With so many aspects to cyberspace, it isn’t difficult to become obsessed, especially for those with more anxious tendencies.  “Individuals who have a history of impulsive or compulsive behaviors, for example, may have more difficulty than others resisting various forms of gratification available online” (Internet Dependence).  The internet provides its users with many different forms of entertainment, information, and connection that allows them to be able to find the security and ease that is absent from the real world.  This sense of reassurance and comfort that the contemporary internet presents correlates with ELIZA’s empathetic healing.  Both of these systems provide people with a feeling of worth and peace of mind, but also force these people to rely on them and return for more.

A great example of simultaneous contemporary internet healing and dependence is Facebook.  This popular social media website has had a substantial impact on people’s lives and sense of self.  First, the healing Facebook provides tends to the idea of self-confidence.  Members make friends and share all of the fascinating and impressive aspects of their lives, which contributes to an increased sense of importance.  However, these people become addicted and reliant on this social platform because “the more you get connected to Facebook, the stronger you feel that the items you post…are part of your identity and the more likely you are going to view these as your virtual possessions” (How Facebook Can Amplify Low Self-Esteem/ Narcissism/ Anxiety).  So, the people that take part in Facebook are simultaneously increasing their sense of self-worth while taking away their ability to independently produce these feelings.  This parallels with computerized therapy because the patient was being healed while using it, but they became unable to stay a stable, self-sufficient person because the program generated those feelings for them.

Others say that the intent is solely positive and that it contributes to a human’s idea of independence.  They believe that “such skills [of independence and knowing how to deal effectively with the world] can’t be built in isolation, and are more likely to develop if supported [by social networking services]” (Benefits of Internet and Social Media).  Essentially, they believe that young people rely on the internet in becoming self-sufficient and effective in the world.  However, I say that there are countless opportunities in the real world to become independent and resilient, and that it is more effective to do it in the real world instead of behind a computer screen.  If a young adult wants to develop real-world skills, they should go out into the real world.  In fact, the internet is known for suppressing real-world skills by inhibiting people’s social abilities since they communicate on a computer incessantly.  So, I believe that the internet’s benefit of learning how to converse with others is in no way productive or helpful.

Computerized psychotherapy and modern cyberspace contribute to people’s comfort and lack of independence on a unified level.  It seems as though the more people use the internet, the more they feel a sense of worth and security, despite the fact that they don’t realize they are being stripped of their independence.  This leads to the concept of anxious individualism, where these people rely on the internet to heal them because they feel chaotic and overwhelmed in reality.

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