Sunday, March 06, 2005

Virtual Psychology

Virtual World requires a whole new branch in psychology that deals with issues of

- Internet addiction
- Personality changes in chat rooms
- Virtual needs of today's net users
- Human emotional needs and desires and how these are fulfilled virtually (love, sex, belongingness, friends, recognition)
- Net related stress, hypertension, fear, anxiety

My goal in this and many of the later posts would be to explore the existing human development and behavioral theories and modifying them to fit the virtual user.

Internet addictionA lot has been said about addiction to the Net. However, most studies have failed to accurately determine its causes. I think Internet addiction is a rather inappropriate term to describe a phenomenon that is quickly penetrating our real lives. Why is the 24/7 use of Internet considered an addiction, when the same does not hold true in the real world? If someone is heavily social, has a lot of friends, goes out a long, hangs out often, why is this 24/7 indulgence in the real world considered appropriate?

The way I see it, there is no such thing as Internet addiction because sooner than later, the Internet would be all over our lives. It would dominate each and every activity that we do, and change the modus operandi of carrying out chores. In the past, the distinction between the real and the virtual was far too great and Internet addiction might have been a problem. Today, it is just the reverse. If you are not wired, that is a bigger problem.

Most of the problems that stem out of Internet addiction are only because of the Net's misuse. Employees spending too much time in chat rooms and children neglecting homework to get on the Net. Come to think of it, if we fail to act appropriately in the real world don't we find ourselves landing into trouble? For example, suppose a person steals - does he/she not get into trouble with the law? The same is the case with the Internet.

The future would further blur the distinction between the virtual and the real. The debate should not be about Internet addiction. Rather, we need to discuss how to make the transition from the real into the virtual as painless as possible. This transition is bound to happen - may be not in our life times, but it is a given. Might as well work to make it as transparent and convenient as humanly possible.

Another problem is the terminology used. The word addiction, itself, has a negative connotation. Such words should be ejected from the people's vocabulary.

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