Psychology and the Internet Cyber Culture

Almost a century ago Psychology emerged as a new science with Freud, Adler and Jung, among others, putting forth the idea of the unconscious and setting the groundwork for modern psycho therapy. Years later, near the end of his life, Jung saw deep psychological problems with our modern culture and warned of collective psychosis to come. We have done little to heed those warnings and indeed very little new ground has been achieved in the area of psychology. Most of the research in modern psychology has been focused on the mass not the individual and much of that as attempts to control or influence the mass. Millions of dollars go into the psychology of advertising, trying to sell us products, while we are no closer to understanding schizophrenia or even the minor disorders of the mind discovered almost a century ago. Modern psychiatry seems to rely more on the use of drugs to ease their patients symptoms then trying to understand the minds they treat. We are a culture of instant gratification and demand instant cures, not months or years spent investigating the inner workings of our minds. We want a pill to fix it, to make us better, happier, and the doctor gladly obliges.

Jung said that our only hope against the trend of society’s focus on the mass, and thus turning us into meaningless parts of the whole, was our religious function. That capacity to experience within ourselves something greater than ourselves is by necessity an individual effort. It can not come from without, but must rise up from within. The State can not give it to us nor can the Church do more than direct us in our journey toward self realization and an intimate relationship with the divine. The demands of the outer world, and of being part of the mass, drown out the inner voice and thus destroy our hopes of individuality. Yet that is the true path to unity, through that relationship with the divine we find the real connectedness of all things. The connection of individual parts in a greater whole not the crushing of the mass into an amalgamation of uniformity.

But our modern psyche, and the collective conscious itself, seems to be taking matters into its own hands. We are seeking and finding “therapy” in the most unlikely places in the most unconventional ways. Our Doctors want to medicate us into a state where we can function within some arbitrary definition of average or “normal” behavior, our governments want to force us into the role of “good patriotic citizens”, and our churches want to restrict us to some orthodox and traditional means in our relationship with the divine. But the psyche will not be bound up or restricted and will act out, bursting its bonds and seeking its own path. Our modern culture is becoming a form of living therapy, for better or worse. We see this in every avenue of modern life, from traditional media to the internet.

Art has always lead the way in the emergence of the human psyche. Our unconscious, as Jung showed us, is archetypical and symbolic by nature. It makes itself known in dreams and visions and manifests collectively through art, music and literature. Much can be learned about a culture through those media as the analyst learns about his patient through dreams and symbolism. Through the emergence of modern technology we are each able to express ourselves and experience the expressions of others unlike any time in history. We watch the raw human interactions, and even take part at times, on the flood of “reality shows” on TV. We watch and even participate as people pour their souls out through blogs and on you tube. We pour out our own souls and let others dissect our inner most thoughts and feelings online. We even experiment with latent subconscious personae through online role play games and social networks. Our modern “connected” culture has deep psychological affects, but are they leading us to salvation or into a morass of individual and collective psychosis?

We have become much more open with our inner psyche, our personal and collective “dirty laundry”. We openly flaunt or quirks and eccentricities for all the world to see. We live a life online that is often quite different than the mundane lives we live in the day to day world. We say and do things that we would never dream of in our mundane life. We have become a split personality both individually and collectively. There is the everyday “us” which comprises the mass of people getting up and going to work every day, then there is the cyber culture we live in online. There we are citizens of the internet and can act out our dreams and fantasies in virtual anonymity. But that division is quickly evaporating.

The cultures are merging, or as Jung would have said, the unconscious content we have projected onto the internet and other media sources is being integrated into our collective conscience. Whether this is a good thing our bad for our culture is yet to be seen, but it will continue. Our modern schism of mundane and cyber cultures represents the schism between conscience and unconscious parts of our psyche. As we integrate the aspects of the cyber culture into our daily lives we will continue to project the contents of the collective unconscious into cyber space. The effect is a collective individuation process. We are entering a new frontier in psychology, un-thought of by the fathers of psychology. But we have yet to master even our own inner lives, how dangerous will it be for this process to continue uncontrolled? The result could be a quantum leap in enlightenment or our entire culture falling into a sort of mass psychosis or schizophrenia. It would be interesting to hear Jung’s ideas on this new phenomenon, or Fraud’s views concerning the level of porn on the net.