Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teen internet addiction: the disinhibition effect

As is described in the previous blog John Suler discusses the disinhibition effect of teen behavior in cyberspace. The previous blog discussed how anonymity and invisibility contribute to disinhibited behavior.

This blog will focus on what is referred to as "asynchronicity" and "dissociative imagination."

See you later: asynchronicity

Whether in an e-mail or on a message board, communication in cyberspace can be asynchronous -- which simply means communication in cyberspace does not have occur in real time. When using cyber communication, teens can decide whether they want to respond in minutes, hours, days, or even months. Due to the fact teens can use cyber communication without having to react to a conversation partner's immediate reaction, disinhibition is increased. In real time we are confronted with having to deal with real feedback, problems, controversy, and disconnections. However, when in cyberspace, there are delays, which can contribute to making comments or giving feedback that is confrontational, rude, overly personal, or dramatic. We can all freeze time in cyberspace which contributes to communicating and then running for cover. In cyberspace we do not have to focus on or address the immediate consequences of our choices if we choose not to: we can hit the pause button and disappear.

It's just a game: dissociative imagination

Due to the fact teens can create what ever identity they want in cyberspace, that they are free to create a make-believe dimension (a dream world), separate and apart from the demands and responsibilities of the real world, their cyber behavior is more likely to be disinhibited. Teens in cyberspace split or disassociate online fiction from off-line fact. Teens are particularly vulnerable to viewing their online life as a kind of game with rules and norms that do not apply to everyday life. Once a teen has turned off the computer and returned to daily life, they often believe they can leave the cyber game and their cyber identity behind. The teen reflects: "why should I be held responsible for what happens in a make-believe world that has nothing to do with my reality?" As a result of being able to split off or disassociate online behavior from off-line reality, teenagers may become dangerously disinhibited or reckless.

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