This week a new exhibition opened in the Museum on the Seam entitled Everyone
Carries a Room Inside. The exhibition reflects a universal cry of
Carl Rogers, the famous humanistic psychologist, believed
that in modern life, people abandon the core of their self-personality and
replace it with behavior patterns which, they believe, will secure them the
recognition, acceptance and love of society.
He goes on to explain that
this process is ultimately doomed, since no matter what they do, or how hard
they work, they will not achieve their aim. They will feel alienated both from
society and from themselves, and as a result, will experience
Modern society advocates and encourages self-actualization.
This is often comes with a high price in terms of our social ties. In other
words, people who wish to fulfill themselves to a high degree frequently do this
at the expense of their social lives.
In recent years many people believe
that the Internet has provided a solution to this dilemma. With its vast array
of communication channels, all available 24/7, we no longer have to choose
between devoting time to our careers or to our family and friends; we can have
it all, and at our convenience. Thus logically the social fabric of society
This, however has not proven to be the
Psychologists Ed Dinner and Martin Seligman (2004) cite solid
evidence that young people today suffer from far higher rates of clinical
depression than did the previous generation. Daniel Golman, writing as early as
1991, argued that the world is sinking steadily into a general clinical
depression, and while the 20th century was characterized as the Anxiety
Generation, this is fast becoming the Clinically Depressed Generation.
is worth noting that all this is happening at a time when every dimension of
economic well-being indicates an impressive increase.
So what is going
wrong ?And how far can we blame our present state on the advent of the Internet?
Clearly the Internet itself is neither bad nor good, it is all a question of
what you do with it. The Internet provides tremendous support to vast numbers of
people, particularly those living in remote places, those who are housebound,
those who are isolated through infectious illness or are disabled. The Internet
enables such people to break out of their isolation and communicate with the
In fact my own research has shown the vast impact of online
communication for those people who are chronically shy or even socially phobic.
The Internet releases them to form relationships with people in a way that are
unable to in their daily lives.
One of the major reasons we are feeling
lonely in our Internet universe is the increased stress we live under due to the
way we utilize the technology. One of the most pervasive values in the modern
world is “time equals money,” and this has led us to aim for ultimate
The Internet provides us with the tools we need. Using the
Internet we can simultaneously run many of the components of our lives. Thus
there is no separation between home and work; we are at work all the
This is reflected in our personal lives – here, too, there is a
need to be efficient. We can be with our kids, answer the mobile phone, send and
receive texts and emails. Thanks to the remote digital devices and WIFI
everywhere we can manage to do everything we need to do, all at the same time.
Actually, trying to be in several places at once means that in most cases we are
in fact nowhere.
Imagine you meet up with someone, and during your drink
together he does not stop talking on his mobile phone, texting, answering email
and updating his Facebook – naturally with pictures and excited comments about
your meeting! The conversation and the relationship between you will never
really develop any depth, and this is the price that we are paying for our
efficiency. We are losing our ability to concentrate and enjoy high-quality time
with one person at a time, because that seems like a waste of
Another facet of this problem is that we are surrounding ourselves
with more and more people, but the quality of these connections is diminishing
through lack of investment.
We may have hundreds of friends but we are
not getting our social needs met. What seems to be happening is that all the
social “advantages” of the net lead to the illusion of a socially intensive
environment. This erroneous impression is especially marked among the younger
generation who were born into a world replete with the Internet.
these young people define friendship through the net. “I have 500 hundred
friends on Facebook” they report, or, “ I’m very socially active on the
Increasingly the quality idea of friendship is being replaced by a
quantitative one. They collect friends. It is a statistical figure that for such
people reflects their social status, while not implying anything deep and
In what may be seen as a paradoxical, given what we know about
incidents of loneliness and depression, the common communication messages
displayed on social network pages reflect happiness and achievements. Above and
beyond the PR factor, there is also a strongly competitive element; “see what
I’ve got (compared to you)” Notice what I bought/where I spent my
The Internet provides us with the illusion that everything is
fine in our social world: we are always surrounded by friends, and we can talk
to them at any time we choose, literally.
In fact my research has shown
that in too many cases the introverts and those suffering from social phobia
show a tendency to become addicted to the Internet and fail to attempt to make
friends or even keep up friendships offline.
Yet we feel frustrated much
of the time.
Deep friendships and love are basic human needs, in whatever
age we live. It seems that the cry of loneliness shouting from the exhibits of
the museum is more relevant than ever.
The author is the director of the
Research Center for Internet Psychology at the Sammy Ofer School of
Communication, IDC Herzliya. His latest book, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The
Psychology of Life on the Internet has been published by Matar in Hebrew.