CHUDOVA N. K., (c)
Although Internet came to Russia later than to other countries, its pace proved faster than elsewhere. Internet has certainly a mightier hold on a user's mind than any other electronic systems, PCs including.
We might as well say than Internet is more than just a fresh opportunity for communication-it is also a tool of molding one's consciousness. In objective terms! Internet is forming a definite picture of the world and an image of one's "ego" in it. That is Internet engenders a specific cultural space where man gains access to a singular instrument of activity - an instrument bound to change lots of things. His "ego" in the long run.
We can regard Internet as a cultural phenomenon endowed with certain semiotic (sign language) and psychological characteristics. Now, what is its medium? Dr. Chudova of the RAS Institute of Program Systems has looked into this problem, and here's what she reports on the results of her study.
To begin with, Internet divides the surrounding world into "one's own" and "alien" spaces. Its impact may be ambivalent. On one hand, Internet gives us new opportunities for further personal growth (instilling such traits as openness, a sense of freedom and independence, and the like). But it can also work in the opposite direction by hampering our individual progress: the web imposes rigid rules of its own, it captivates and enmeshes us, it "sucks us dry". And so forth.
Something else is just as important: Internet enables our self-identification with a "culture-vulture" of the virtual network-say, a hacker; we can cross frontiers and travel far and wide, we can participate in any events; in short, we can expand our "ego" out and out. On the other hand, Internet gives lots of random things, information on the periphery of our being to challenge images and ideas of our own.
The semiotic, sign language-related space contains two types of languages-one of symbols (signs), and the other of icons (pictograms); these two languages are a medium begetting new texts and meanings.
Internet combines communication and autocommunication, all in one: your addressee can access your text hands down. And many other users besides. Information that for centuries has been divorced in time and in space is realized here and now.
The autocommunication phenomenon (responsible, among other things, for the comeback of the epistolary genre) works a dramatic change in a user's mentality. As Yuri Lotman, an eminent Russian philologist and linguist of the latter half of the 12th century, has said, "if the I-HE communication conveys only some constant body of information, the I-1 channel transforms it to a new quality remolding this very T."
Internetlanders, who are prone overmuch to discussions, debates and disputes, have far more leeway in using assumed names in the course of their communication. Debates are also nice for furthering their consciousness. Simultaneously, he who has a "last say" willy-nilly impacts one's personality.
These three specific qualities of Internet autocommunication, discussions and assumed names-set the stage for intensive work on the image of our "ego".
The phenomenon of anonymity imposes constraints on a person's very status. Internet accords no status to our body, or, rather, it accords a zero status. This approach has its history. In the 1960s hackers, the mouthpiece of the youth revolt, downgraded to naught the semiotic status of man's social achievements and proclaimed universal equality in the computerland, irrespective of one's title or diploma. Next, the Internet culture took another step by excluding the natural, bodily component of its adepts. Thus a person could be perceived only as a fleshless subject of culture. Period.
So Internet is meant to cater to a peculiar set of persons who will view the world and their "ego" in it through the computer glasses. Stray visitors and users aside, Internet has molded a population of Internetlanders. Showing high emotional involvement, they are spending a lot of time and money for staying within the world web. Doing that for fun rather than business.
Looking into the emotional and communicative characteristics of men and women who will see the virtual world as a space of their self-expression, Dr. Chudova made a case study of 67 persons: forty Internet denizens and twenty-seven casual guests visiting the worldwide web now and then for business only (a control group). The test subjects were of one and the same age and social group selected from Moscow college students.
The results of this study: nearly all the subjects, the Internet buffs (98 percent), had communication problems and problems in the image of their "ego". In the control group, only 15 percent showed such complexes. As much as 55 percent of Internetlanders had problems in communication contacts (11 percent in the control group). The "intellectual craze" developed in 30 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively. About 32.5 percent of the Internet set succumbed to a feeling of loneliness and suffered from lack of mutual understanding-this probably related to their contacts with the opposite sex-against 18.5 percent in the control group. Remarkably, the Internet buffs are not an aggressive lot-only 7.5 percent showed signs of verbal aggressiveness.
Emotionally, Internetlanders are somewhat keyed up and prone to negativism: 85 percent have had at least one frustration, and 35 percent-even two. Only 25 percent seek solace elsewhere. Although beset by quite different problems, as much as 55 percent of the denizens of the worldwide web solve their worries in revolt and in defying the commonly accepted standards.
In their self-appraisal (such yardsticks as intelligence, appeal, independence), 40 percent of the test subjects think their high sense of independence offsets a lack of sociability or appeal, while 12.5 percent perceive their independence as excessive (the ideal "ego" scores more points here than the real one). The ideal "ego" image varies: 47.5 percent of the subjects set their sights high, and 12.5 percent lose touch with reality (compared with the real "ego"); and 10 percent undervalue their dear selves.
Dr. Chudova's experimental data illuminate this trend: the Internetlanders are mostly concerned with self-perception. Indeed, the Internet test subjects have five times as many people among them as those in the control group who have experienced trouble in human contacts and in finding themselves; besides, they face difficulties in accepting their bodily "ego" and their bodily needs. The cause of such complexes might lie in the infantile, underdeveloped mechanisms of self-appraisal that give rise to an idealistic, far-fetched vision of their own selves.
All this leads to emotional tension; to cope with it-given that the Internet group shows no aggressive responses-three things come by way of remedy. First, a desire to address any problems, both individual and interindividual ones, by intelligence, by intellectual means. Something that is akin to hackers and skilled programmers. Next comes a mind-set about the uniqueness of each and every individual. One's idiosyncrasies exclude the possibility of complete and true mutual understanding. You are a lone wolf, nothing doing. This stance impacts the communication process. And the third nostrum offers negativism and rejection of social rules and standards. This escapism is in no way connected with aggressive anti-social behavior.
The Internet bunch are self-centered freaks blind to their own carnality and aloof in their attitude to other people. They seek to redress their loneliness and lack of understanding by inflating their ego. Moved by an exaggerated vision of their independence, such people refuse to adhere to the commonly accepted social standards. One cannot escape the impression that something is rotten in Internetland. The worldwide web is a subculture offering novel means for the personal growth of those who for some reason have self-identification troubles and cannot rely on natural capabilities or social achievements.
Internet has drawn the line at the industrial age and changed the psychology of present-day culture. The problem of personal estrangement, the way the American philosopher, psychologist and sociologist Erich Fromm (1900 - 1980) saw it, is no longer around. Things have changed a good deal since the days of this eminent disciple of Neo-Freudianism. He who has a site in Internet or else supports the Internet community by his presence is somehow involved in work planning and has a chance to see the results.
The reverse side of the information explosion (as Yuri Lotman has put it, "the stark segregation of the senders and the receivers, and the psychological stance of getting the truth as a ready communication on someone else's mental effort...") is no longer typical of Internet's auto-communication culture.
CHUDOVA N. K, "The 'Ego' Image of an Internet 'Inhabitant'", Psikhologichesky zhurnal (Psychological Journal), Vol. 23, No. 1, 2002.
Prepared by Igor GORYUNOV
Опубликовано на Порталусе 09 сентября 2018 года
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