in ” The Psychology of The Internet” Patricia Wallace takes you into a deep and meditative journey through the psychological realm constituted by Internet. My first impression about this book before I read it was that it would be wrought with hard to understand technical jargon from the field of psychology but I was proved wrong. Wallace was well aware that the audience of her book will probably span different disciplines other than psychology and so saved us the hassle of ‘awkward lexical confrontations.’
“The Psychology of TheInternet” explores the psychological impact of the online digital world on our behaviour. And though the book was written and published in a time when the digital revolution we know now was only in its embryonic stages (1999), yet it lays out the psychological ground of much of what we are experiencing now in areas spanning virtual identity formation, psychology of group work, online relationships, group dynamics in cyberspace, psychology of aggression on the net and many more.
One of the finest goal behind Wallace’s work is to show how the ‘medium’ ( internet ) itself can influence the way we act in surprising ways. “Linguists have studied many different register variations and found that language use in specific social contexts is heavily influenced by social norms and conventions, and also by the medium” she quips. In this , Wallace comes close to Walter Ong’s belief that ” the medium is the message “. The profound psychological analysis of this medium, Wallace argues, will allow us to benefit from the huge possibilities offered by the net in such a way that it can improve the psychological climate of the Internet.
Here are some of the interesting quotes that stood out to me from reading this book :
The Internet explosion happened so rapidly that we have not had much time to step back from the medium and look at it more systematically, as a new environment that can have potent effects on our behavior.
One of the first surprises for researchers investigating online behavior was how disinhibited people sometimes became, and how their tempers seemed to flare more easily as they interacted with others.
I am reminded of the work of developmental psychologist David Elkind, who studied the characteristics of egocentrism in adolescence. Young people can be rather absorbed in their self-images and mistakenly assume others join them in that absorption. Elkind found that one feature of this egocentrism is a preoccupation with the imaginary audience. During this stage in life, many people seem to overestimate how much others are watching and evaluating, so they feel unduly self-conscious about the impression they are making.
Since the publication of ” The Psychology of The Internet“, Wallace published another interesting book in 2004 under the title “Internet in The Work Place: How New Technology is Transforming Work” in which she demonstrates how netcentric technologies touch every kind of workplace, and explores the challenges and dilemmas they create.