The Electrified Society

I was browsing around the Bedok Library last week and this book caught my eye The Electrified Mind: Development, Psychopathology, and Treatment in the Era of Cell Phones and the Internet (Margaret S. Mahler) [Hardcover].

As many of our readers already know by now…I hardly write but this book brought up so much old nostalgic memories, that I just had to put them down. My wish is that this blog entry, would at least help our young parents, in the midst of struggling to meet deadlines, juggling household chores and running the family, they don’t forget to spend quality time with their kids. This book also reminds me to put aside as much contact-time with my children (Joanna 17 and Jonathan 19) as well. I admit I’m a crackiPhone (crackBerry btw is the nick for those always on their Blackberries) and even my kids are always on the Net or on their handphones.

Like many of us avid readers in AsiaMed, we are fast readers and I picked up significant chapters especially stopping at Conclusion pages so that I could finish the book faster (so please get hold of this book if you want to read more) our readers could absorb the key points.

This book basically talks about the impact of the Internet and social networking on psychotherapy – by the way this book is written by those atas-atas psychotherapists. I’ve included below some paragraphs that resonated with me.

“It is often noted with a deep sight that we have become a “quick fix” society where instant gratification is expected. Many patients enter psychiatric therapy expecting to be “fixed” quickly, and when that does not happen, they ask for a medication, thinking that will be the magic bullet. It is not surprising that the Internet seduces us when we are offered quick Internet searches an almost instantaneous connections with others through instant messaging, Facebook, text messaging and Twittering. Given all of the stimulating technology in our everyday lives, it is no wonder that many children have difficulty playing make-believe, or have no desire to find a cozy corner in which to curl up and read a good book or just plain daydream. Current research data makes evident that when children are encouraged and supported in developing fantasy play, they are “more creative, better at problem solving, more resourceful, less aggressive and better behaved in school” (Blumenthal, 2009, p258). One particular study found that “children who played violent games were more likely to show angry thoughts, express beliefs of a hostile nature, show more physiological arousal, demonstrate overt aggressive behavior and be less willing to cooperate with or help others” (Bushman and Anderson, 2001).

There was one area that was not addressed that I feel deserves some thought: does the use of Blackberries, iPhones and computers have an effect on the relationship and possibly the quality of the attachment between a mother and her infant or young child? It is rather disturbing to observe mothers (fathers and nannies too!) ignoring the demands of their young children because the adult is seemingly engrossed in an electronic device. A patient of mine recently told me an interesting story. Her 3-year old son had two other little boys over for playtime. As the three boys sat enjoying their snacks she overheard the following conversation:

Boy 1: “My Mommy is always writing papers on the computer”.

Boy 2: “My Mommy too. She is always looking at the computer”.

Boy 3: “My Mommy never stops writing on her computer”.

She was struck by the exchange but realized that the computer can and does get in the way of being with one’s child.

–        Salman Akhtar M.D., Proffessor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College; Training and Supervising Analyst Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, PA.

Another important area to explore is how the Internet (and text messaging) affects adolescent development. Over that past ten years, I have observed behaviour among my patients from age eleven to eighteen that seems very different than in the past. I have observed teenagers stealing another’s identity in order to hurt that person. Things are said that they would never say in a faced-to-face communications and some teens have done things like take seductive photos of themselves and them out in cyberspace. There is a boldness that occurs. I question whether these behaviours, which are ubiquitous, affect normal development, or whether the conflicts and developmental changes are the same and technology is just another vehicle through which to express them.  The adolescents we see in our treatment rooms are often unable to tolerate this phase of rejecting parental controls (while the adolescent must deal with newfound sexual impulses that need to be contained) so they turn to cyberspace in order to defend against what is felts as an intolerable emptiness/loneliness. I wonder if this dependence on the Internet, stalls growth and does not allow the adolescent to move through this vital development phase.

–        Ann G. Smolen, Ph.D, Faculty Member Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, PA.

– The Electrified Mind: Development, Psychopathology, and Treatment in the Era of Cell Phones and the Internet (Margaret S. Mahler) [Hardcover]

Salman Akhtar (Author, Contributor), Monisha C. Akhtar (Contributor), Jerome Blackman (Contributor), Joanne Cantor (Contributor), Frederick Fisher (Contributor), Lana Fishkin (Contributor), Ralph Fishkin (Contributor), John Frank (Contributor), Patricia L. Gibbs (Contributor), Christine C. Kieffer (Contributor), Kavita I. Nayar (Contributor), Ann Smolen (Contributor)

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