In the no-holds-barred public forum of the Internet, many of us create alternate selves – more assertive, more efficient, sexier, bolder. Drawing on years of clinical experience as a Stanford psychiatrist, Elias Aboujaoude details the irrevocable damage done to our offline self by our online alter ego(s), or “e-personality”.
What drives the users the users of a message board to encourage insult, than passively watch a man take his own life in front of a webcam? Or a suburban mother to torment a neighboring girl with broken promises from a boy she fabricated online, leading to the girl’s suicide?
With the Web influencing all facets of contemporary life, the line between the virtual and the real is disappearing, leaving behind a void with uncertain rules and little or no restraint, and an alienated state of being called “virtualism”. With innumerable bits of information immediately accessible online, we’ve become effortless knowledge. Offline however, we become impatient, entitled, unfocused, and impulse driven. Skimming articles and Wikipedia entries, we lose the ability to read and think critically; the “illusion of knowledge” replaces actual mastery.
We rack up Facebook “Friends” and, in the process, become uncomfortable interacting in person. Because of the perceived ease of finding significant others on tailored dating sites, we neglect working on our relationship problems. And we do it all at the expense of our privacy, disseminating along the way valuable personal information, the loss of could be likened to a hemorrhaging of personality.