Internet Culture and Mental Health

mental health internet cultureThe culture of the internet is one that is so new that modern cultural anthropologists cannot predict its evolution with any certainty. The impact on humanity that internet culture carries is enormous, but it is also very recent and there is much still to study about it. One tremendous consideration of internet culture is its implications for collective mental health. The way that the internet effects humanity’s social health and the individual’s mental health is concerning.

One indication of how internet culture effects us collectively is in an examination of how we moderate it. First of all, mental health experts do not know exactly how much time and energy is healthy to expend on the internet, but there is a range that is considered healthy. Society is struggling to fall within this healthy range. Internet addiction is an identified mental illness in modern psychology and many of us are offenders. Balancing time spent on the internet and the rest of life’s responsibilities has proven difficult for us, yet it is undeniable that limitless access to the internet is unhealthy. People are foregoing physical activity, in-person relationships and life responsibilities in order to be on the internet, proving that we are overvaluing the internet. This is a sign of mental disorder that could require mental illness treatment.

The health of internet communication is another major factor to contend with. Any type of communication between people falls somewhere on a spectrum between healthy and unhealthy. Examples of healthy communication would include honesty, respect, tolerance, courtesy and genuine interest. All too often on the internet, communication is found to be lacking these qualities, and is instead riddled with dishonesty, disrespect, intolerance, rudeness and a lack of interest in other’s perspectives. A detrimental breakdown of healthy communication is taking place within internet culture and is damaging the mental health of internet users.

Some may argue that the internet is merely a medium of expression for mental unhealthiness that would exist even without the internet, and there may be truth to that sentiment, but cultural anthropologists and psychologists have observed a correlation between the internet and society’s mental health which would indicate that they effect one another.

Internet Culture and Fragmentation

fragmented internet cultureThe irony of the internet is that it embodies the advance of technology, but in many ways, the regression of humanity as well. Humanity is ever changing, but whether it is evolving or devolving remains to be seen. It stands to reason that the positive evolution of humanity would be toward tolerance and altruism, but what is actually taking place is far from that. The fragmentation that society is experiencing due to the conflicts that have arisen from internet culture and communication is staggering. Society has demonstrated that it places a higher value on separatism, personal comfort and self interest than it does on collectivism, social responsibility and unity. The ways that the fragmentation of society becomes clear through internet interactions are as follows:

  • Separatism. Internet culture largely promotes separatism over tolerance. This is made clear in the online interactions that take place between internet users. Opinions within internet culture prefer a society where those who are different from us are kept a comfortable distance away from us. This can be seen in the hostility of exchanges between internet users.
  • Personal comfort. Where an altruistic nature can only be demonstrated in the absence of comfort, internet culture highly esteems personal comfort. A majority of people accessing the internet are doing so from a location of great personal comfort, and communication through the internet and other digital media is decidedly the most preferred method of communication.
  • Self interest. Human interactions that take place online are largely self serving. Where as in-person communication comes with an obligatory sense of respecting others, internet communication is preferred because it empowers the user to respect themselves instead of others. The element of empathy that is so necessary to a healthy society is lost on internet culture. Instead, the internet gives us compassion fatigue and we harden ourselves to others because of the access we have to the internet.

What is Internet Culture?

internet cultureThe late 20th century marked the dawning of the internet age, and from it arose a global phenomenon, the likes of which have never been seen in history. The internet became so prevalent that it is one of the only human movements in history to develop its own distinct culture without the component of in-person interactions. This phenomenon is what gave birth to “internet culture,” or “cyber culture,” which is characterized by the formation of networks through computer usage and how it impacts society. Internet culture is highly relevant as more and more of human interaction goes digital, and the direction that internet culture takes will have major consequences on human culture across the globe.

Internet culture entails the way that people interact with each other digitally and form social patterns. When the internet first emerged as a communications option, people were overwhelmingly intrigued with it and it became an instant focal point in the lives of those who had access to it. Over time, the internet became a common thing that demonstrated more and more the character of its users. People tend to use the internet as an outlet for forms of expression that would not take place in person. In some ways, it is healthy. It is not uncommon for people to communicate better through writing. However, in other ways, it is unhealthy because certain inhibitions that have developed for the sake of protecting the greater social good are shed and forgotten.

Internet culture is characterized by the shedding of inhibition in communication. One of the most common complaints about how people interact online is how often people feel untouchable behind a computer screen. Common courtesy, respect and human decency are frequently abandoned within internet culture and are replaced by hate speech, abuse and needlessly aggressive language, which is not a positive attribute of internet culture. It is unknowable how this trend will progress into the future, but it is the collective opinion that this type of behavior should not be esteemed.