Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality

Overview

"Instantly engaging and eminently accessible . . . . an enlightening and cautionary exploration of an increasingly intrusive aspect of modern society." —Booklist
While the Internet can enhance well-being, Elias Aboujaoude has spent years treating patients whose lives have been profoundly disturbed by it. Part of the danger lies in how the Internet allows us to act with exaggerated confidence, sexiness, and charisma. Aboujaoude dubs this new self our “e-personality” and argues that its traits are too potent to be ...

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Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality

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Overview

"Instantly engaging and eminently accessible . . . . an enlightening and cautionary exploration of an increasingly intrusive aspect of modern society." —Booklist
While the Internet can enhance well-being, Elias Aboujaoude has spent years treating patients whose lives have been profoundly disturbed by it. Part of the danger lies in how the Internet allows us to act with exaggerated confidence, sexiness, and charisma. Aboujaoude dubs this new self our “e-personality” and argues that its traits are too potent to be confined online. Offline, too, we’re becoming impatient, unfocused, and urge-driven. Virtually You draws from Aboujaoude’s personal and professional experience to highlight this new phenomenon. The first scrutiny of the virtual world’s transformative power on our psychology, Virtually You demonstrates how real life is being reconfigured in the image of a chat room, and how our identity increasingly resembles that of our avatar.

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Editorial Reviews

Alan F. Schatzberg
“A book that not only has been needed for several years but could become a modern classic.”
Dan Stein
“Aboujaoude’s thorough review of the psychological and societal dangers of the online world is timely and important. These dangers are richly illustrated with clinical material and are thoughtfully analyzed using relevant research. Anyone who goes online at home or at work, or who has family or colleagues online, should carefully consider the issues raised in his volume.”
Donald W. Black
“Dr. Aboujaoude documents a disturbing phenomenon that few medical professionals have written about, or understand, but most have witnessed. This important and intelligent book shows how the Internet has changed our lives, not all for the better. Relationships have become virtual, rather than real, and in the process, our personalities have been transformed to suit the new technology. Not suggesting we reverse the clock, Dr. Aboujaoude suggests we proceed with caution in this brave, new world, and try to better understand the transformative power of this new ‘virtualism.’”
Vladan Starcevic
“This is a timely volume on how the Internet has changed all of us in ways that we may not be aware of or that we prefer not to think about. It is an eye-opener and brings back a much-needed commonsense approach to the challenges posed by modern information and communication technology. The added value of the book is in its reliance on observation, wisdom and clinical experience, as well as data-driven knowledge.”
Kirkus Reviews

A psychiatrist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorders argues persuasively that the Internet can be hazardous to our mental health.

Aboujaoude (Psychiatry and Behavioral Science/Stanford Univ.; Compulsive Acts: A Psychiatrist's Tales of Ritual and Obsession, 2008, etc.) refers to scholarly studies, media reports and his patients' case histories to give copious examples of people altering their moral behavior and personalities online, almost always for the worse. In the virtual world, responsible adults who would never go near so much as a slot machine start gambling away their families' life savings in virtual casinos. Individuals with low self-esteem offline spend more of their days on virtual role-playing sites like Second Life, where they can mold themselves—and sometimes others—into their idea of perfection, leaving imperfect face-to-face relationships to deteriorate. Online, mild-mannered people lie, cheat, steal, scheme and bully. Aboujaoude argues that they degrade language and, thereby, thought, reducing social communications to crude tweets of 140 characters or fewer and letting emoticons stand for their feelings. Anyone who has any experience in online forums and enterprises will recognize the ills that the author enumerates, but is it something about the Internet that causes this bad behavior, or something in human nature? Psychiatrists are undecided about whether Internet addiction is a legitimate disorder, and Aboujaoude clearly leans toward giving it its own diagnostic status. If it is indeed a "real" disorder, psychiatry may lack the tools to treat people whose psyches are more present online than in person. The author acknowledges that the Internet has wrought plenty of good; it enabled him to research much of his book from his own computer, for example. Furthermore, it isn't going away. But just as the Industrial Revolution forever changed the physical landscape often catastrophically, the virtual revolution seems to be altering our mental world in ways we have barely begun to understand.

Most readers already realize that online personas are often different from those in real life, but Aboujaoude offers a unique psychiatrist's perspective and an urgent wake-up call for those still in the dark.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393340549
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/6/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 851,954
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Elias Aboujaoude, MD, a Stanford University psychiatrist, earned an MD from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in San Francisco.

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