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The digital media is responsible for split personalities

There are some very real advantages to having a separate e-personality, according to Aboujaoudek. For some people, he notes, find it easier to be emotionally open through their online self.

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The digital media is responsible for split personalities

The Stanford psychiatrist, Elias Aboujaoudek argues that the problem is not so much that digital culture flattens our personality but that it splits us in two. We gradually develop an e-personality or e-identity that is distinct from our offline personality: for every real being with an internet hook up, there exists now a virtual version living side by side. What is more, our virtual selves are starting to dominate our lives. Being online is fast becoming our default state, with a growing proportion of people spending over half their waking hours wired into digital technology: the typical US teenager clocks up nearly 8 hours each day online, updating their Facebook status, consuming media and texting their friends.

There are some very real advantages to having a separate e-personality, according to Aboujaoudek. For some people, he notes, find it easier to be emotionally open through their online self. It may also be a way to express your identity without fear of prejudice: if you are a gay teenager living in rural Texas, you might find an emphatic community of interest online, where as revealing your sexual orientation offline might lead to ostracism in your home town. But the dangers of the e-personality are all to apparent. One he highlights is the tendency to behave in a deceptive and self aggrandising way. Whether it is through an online dating profile or a fully fledged avatar on second life, we can find it hard to resist pretending to be thinner more popular and more successful than we really are. There is always that temptations to tell a few lies on the dating sites about our job, salary or education - and to air brush our photographs as well,

Another danger is that the possibility of anonymity and invisibility creates an online disinhibition effect where people feel licensed to engage in anti social behaviour. I regularly receive extra ordinarily rude and cruel comments on my online newspaper article and video talks that people would almost certainly never be willing to say to my face. Cyber bullying, too,has become a serious problem amongst school children. Aboujaoudek makes clear that the normal break system, which under usual circumstances keeps thoughts and behaviours in check, constantly malfunctions on the information superhighway.

The most fundamental problem, however, is that our e-personality can drift towards narcissism, which than comes to infect offline personality too. The most obvious manifestation of digital self absorption is 'egosurfing' (also known as  'narcissurfing' or 'auto googling'), defined as googling yourself to see where, when and how often you show up on the internet - 47% of US adults admit to having done a vanity search. It also appears in addictions such as constantly checking how many twitter followers you have spending hours revising and fine tuning your social media profiles and posting messages designed to gain new friends or more likes. In effect, we are turning ourselves into virtual bill boards, advertising and marketing our personalities to online consumers.

Disclaimer: This article was originally published on HappyHo and is republished here with permission.


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