• Shawn
    10.7k
    A radical shift has occurred since the 1990's. Computers are cheap and readily available to even those with meager incomes, the internet is abundant and can be found just about anywhere, knowledge is plentiful and abundant through websites like Wikipedia or Google, and finally the internet is comforting in the peace and quiet that anonymity allows one to express their thoughts without hindrance in the safety of one's home.

    Despite their being quite a lot of material on the internet that is harmful or disgusting, which is being tackled by noble moderators and fast algorithms, there is an aspect of the internet that I haven't seen mentioned too much. Namely, the entangled relationship between anonymity and the formation of one's identity.

    I'm about almost 30, and was figuratively raised by the internet. As I grew up, I realized quickly that online forums, where people have something at stake, such as their reputation or image of themselves as presented to passers by are/is where higher quality content can be formed, and seemed like the "right" place to be.

    Now, I have grown up witnessing my peers being depressed (Facebook, the issue of instant gratification supplied in truckloads), and anxious (exacerbation of neurosis, disrupted circadian rhythm), bullied to death (4chan, and other troll hubs), and trolled on to such an extent that for a while I was considering entirely leaving the web. But, nobody is really answering the fundamental question that has been on my mind, which is the issue of forming a sound and wholesome identity.

    I have only recently begun researching the process of identity formation, and most of these books were written back when the internet wasn't such a place. My thesis here is that the internet is or can be profoundly detrimental to the process of establishing a sound and wholesome identity, especially in the young.

    Talking from personal experience, games are rather harmless, despite conservatives aiming at first-person-shooters as some wild explanation for rising gun violence. Paradoxically, it's places where the parallel between real life and internet activity becomes narrower, is where the issue is exposed. Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms where one's anonymity is unveiled have repeatedly been demonstrated to be corrosive to one's well-being. Let's be honest, nobody needs some 400 friends on Facebook, with whom they never speak with in real life, and are some pseudo-opera where one can flaunt the drama's and opulence of one's life as interesting, fun, and edifying(?) Not... But, it's appealing because everyone else is doing it... and this is madness.

    Again, going back to having a sound and wholesome identity, the internet does not seem conducive to this goal. Everyone can play roles, say anything they want without repercussion, ridicule without repercussion, and find about anything they want online. Not, to bash the internet needlessly, these are good things, which are being gradually taken away from us; but, not enough people are taking a pause and reconsidering some elements of the internet that are dangerous or detrimental.

    I feel like I'm losing focus here (another thing that's easily accomplished by the internet). So, I'll leave the open question posed in the title of the OP as the main thesis point here. If anyone has any more knowledge about this matter, please let us know.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    Now, a whole other realm of the insidious part of the internet is online advertising. Google's motto used to be "Don't be evil.", I still think Google is a great company, and enjoy many of their products; but, when things grow to such gigantic proportions that is Google, is when flaws and issues become more glaring. The whole premise of online advertising is based on the illusion of self-gratification or instant reward.

    Psychoanalyzing a little bit, anger and outrage get the most clicks. Corollary, feelings of inadequacy intensify by promoting a picture of one's self that is eternally happy or joyful. Thus, one becomes angry at being sad or sad at being sad or a whole range of mixed emotions that arise from skewed realities formed by one's online persona.

    If I were to rewrite Plato's Republic for our modern age, I would not encourage the use of the internet for anyone before at least a wholesome age. As a factual, advice, it's said that children nowadays spend 6 hours of their daily waking hours interacting with some medium. One can imagine what this can lead to in terms of family relationships and interpersonal skills.
  • fdrake
    3.6k
    The internet is a series of biased sampling methods from the set of possible social relationships you may attain. It is constrained to vision, hearing, though certain environments and speech acts; like emotes (think waving in World of Warcraft), or responsive exchanges of personalised erotica in cybersex ape gestures and touch respectively. The medium is intrinsically asynchronous, messages may be delayed indefinitely (think of old email), though various features some platforms have are designed to induce synchronicity through manipulating positive feedback (likes, share notifications) or the social obligations of immediate response through bodily, tonal or 'I'm done speaking now' cues; like "X has read this" or "X is writing a message" notifications.

    You will not explore sensoria of touch or kinaesthetic/social spatiality on here. Luckily we can't smell each other after sweaty days festering in an office either. But you can capitalise on the social networks present here to elicit any social interaction (any meet and fuck or dating app for the mysteries of love condensed to the soppy love letters in condom tips).

    The unique opportunities for socialising and making friends in the medium exploit its biases. You can have long term exchanges in special interest groups, you can use search functions to find special interest groups and capitalise on those networks; BDSM need not transmit through word of mouth any more, nor non-gender binary or gay dating and meet/fuck. Social media even creates the potential for international spontaneous political organisation (like the Arab Spring or the Extinction Rebellion protests in London recently).

    In those regards, it depends a lot on how you use it. Ideally it is an augmentation instead of a replacement for life, realising the cybernetic ideal of the internet as much as possible, rather than the corporate centralisation such lawless irregularity actually promotes.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    The internet is a series of biased sampling methods from the set of possible social relationships you may attain.fdrake

    So, based on your view, how does this bias affect the development of one's identity for young children. I mean, assuming unrestricted access to any website (as is often the case for non-tech savvy parents).

    The unique opportunities for socialising and making friends in the medium exploit its biases.fdrake

    Yes, so explain to us readers what biases are they and how do they manifest?

    In those regards, it depends a lot on how you use it.fdrake

    This statement assumes a well developed sense of agency on the part of the user, which doesn't seem to be true in most cases for children. Even adults have trouble regulating themselves on the internet, very often.
  • fdrake
    3.6k
    How the internet influences childhood development is one thing, how it influences the maintenance, expansion or diminishment of (sufficiently) adult agency is another. I don't care to speculate on the first.

    Identity's something that receives reinforcement and can change over time. Your expressive capacities certainly do, you can learn how to touch just like you learn how to raise your voice. You can find your voice on an internet forum, even, and use it as fuel for academic discussion IRL. :)
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    It's an interesting issue when we're talking about younger folks (like your age, Wallows, or younger) who spend a significant percentage of their time socializing online. It would definitely factor into developing personal identity in a way that wouldn't be the case for older folks or for people who don't spend so much time socializing online.

    Although even as someone close to 30 years older than you, some of us (at least those who were kind of nerdy at the time) already had home computers while we were in our teens (so the end of the 70s/beginning of the 80s in my case), and we were already socializing--and arguing/"debating" etc. with strangers online. Just in cases like mine we're talking about Radio Shack and Commodore computers, and calling local BBS numbers instead of using the Internet.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    How the internet influences childhood development is one thing, how it influences the maintenance, expansion or diminishment of (sufficiently) adult agency is another. I don't care to speculate on the first.fdrake

    Then let us know about the latter part? The internet seems to promote dis-inhibition in the form of sharing personal details, deep feelings, insecurities, fears, and other prominent psychological facets. What's your take on that?
  • fdrake
    3.6k


    It is fashionable to suggest that cyberspace is some kind of _island of the blessed_ where people are free to indulge and express their Individuality...this is not true....i have seen many people spill their guts on-line, and i did so myself until...i began to see that i had commodified myself. commodification means that you turn something into a product which has a money-value. in the nineteenth century, commodities were made in factories...by workers who were mostly exploited....i created my interior thoughts as a means of production for the corporation that owned the board i was posting to...and that commodity was being sold to other commodity/consumer entities as entertainment... [Cyberspace] is a black hole. It absorbs energy and personality and then re-presents it as an emotional spectacle. — Carmen Hermosillo
  • Bitter Crank
    8.7k
    It is unlikely that the Internet plays a significant role in personality development, identity formation, and so forth. Why not? The Internet is not an intelligent, warm-blooded, talking, touching, feeling being. Take language formation: Young children learn language from other humans. They do not learn language from television (or radio, film, audio recordings, etc.). Sesame Street aimed to teach language, but it couldn't.

    I agree that the Internet is a tremendously rich source of information and entertainment, and evolvement with various platforms can affect moods, behaviour, awareness of problems, and so forth. Core identity is partly genetic but largely gained from live-one-on-one-and-group interactions.

    It seems counter-intuitive that media like television (which some people consume in massive quantities) or the Internet would have little influence on language, character formation, identity, and so forth. Compare the Internet to books: There are billions of books, journals, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets available. One could claim that print shapes identity. Would you buy that idea?

    It doesn't.

    None of this is to deny that the Internet has real-life significance. It can certainly shape opinion, key perceptions, and the like. The blanket of advertising will stimulate interest in a lot of useless products.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    Although even as someone close to 30 years older than you, some of us (at least those who were kind of nerdy at the time) already had home computers while we were in our teens (so the end of the 70s/beginning of the 80s in my case), and we were already socializing--and arguing/"debating" etc. with strangers online. Just in cases like mine we're talking about Radio Shack and Commodore computers, and calling local BBS numbers instead of using the Internet.Terrapin Station

    Yes, the internet is detrimental to personal growth in my opinion. Reactions to this sentiment can be found in Jordan Peterson, and Marxist criticisms of the commodification of personality, as per the quote provided above by @fdrake. Russia is going so far as to create their own intranet that is divorced from the rest of the world. China already has their version of the internet. The Arab Spring was a wake up call to the Iranian clerics, that minds are easy persuaded.

    Now, introduce to this whole situation an empty, absorbent, and young mind, and the situation seems rather precarious.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I'm not at all ready to say that there's anything negative about it without a pretty good argument, backed by empirical evidence, for something that I'd feel is negative.

    But I think it's pretty clear it would be a factor for someone young spending a lot of time online.
  • fdrake
    3.6k
    Now, introduce to this whole situation an empty, absorbent, and young mind, and the situation seems rather precarious.Wallows

    Suspicions like this are incredibly prone to confirmation bias. You end up seeing evidence for them just because you read a convincing anecdote.

    I'm vulnerable to this too, of course, that quote about the commodification of emotions online while being insightful (though dated "island of the blessed" indeed!) is an oversimplification. It makes it sound as if if we had this conversation IRL it would mystically be better, despite all the advantages of text exchange, and would not have occurred unless we both frequented a special interest forum.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.7k
    The internet seems to promote dis-inhibition in the form of sharing personal details, deep feelings, insecurities, fears, and other prominent psychological facets. What's your take on that?Wallows

    What promotes disinhibition on the Internet is positive feedback (or feedback period) from other humans. If nobody responded to one's gut spilling, one would stop doing it.

    Anonymity probably facilitates over-sharing (maybe dis-inhibition). But, you know, people have been finding ways of disinhibiting themselves for a long time -- and not just through chemical courage. Sometimes people just decide to "let go".
  • Shawn
    10.7k




    Yes; but, this isn't a matter of opinion anymore. Just check the Wikipedia article on Cyberpsychology.

    17Gavck.png
  • Bitter Crank
    8.7k
    Now, introduce to this whole situation an empty, absorbent, and young mind, and the situation seems rather precarious.Wallows

    In the late 1950s (my adolescence) I was exposed to 'pornographic' pamphlets from an anti-communism organisation; maybe it was the John Birch Society -- can't remember. There were lurid stories about devious, treasonous Americans and foreign agents undermining the foundations of freedom, democracy, free enterprise, The American Way, et al. My opinion about communism was given a further rightward twist. (There was a lot of anti-communist nattering in the 1950s.).

    This anti-communist opinion stayed in place until it was washed out in college. It didn't take "pro-communist" propaganda; it just took new interests and zero reinforcement for extreme right-wing (or extreme left wing) opinions.
  • Shawn
    10.7k


    Were there any outcries of the TV, as a new form of entertainment, and the dying off of radio in your days? I know a lot of sentiment was geared against the TV, despite its overwhelming saturation in every part of the market segment, from advertising, to just about anything to this day...
  • Bitter Crank
    8.7k
    Social media and cyberpsychological behavior: Comparison and low self-esteem, Depression, Social isolation and ostracism, Negative relationships, Fear of missing out (FOMO), Sleep deprivation, Addictive behavior, Eating disorders, ADHD, and memes...

    ALL of this existed before the personal computer and the Internet. Long before.

    Were there any outcries of the TV, as a new form of entertainmentWallows

    Indeed there were. TV was a favoured target for criticism from all corners. It was "the vast wasteland". It was, of course, a vast wasteland with a few oasis of high quality programs--but not too many. TV was criticised and named as the source of many social ills. Juvenile delinquency, sexually stimulating dance styles (it shared that crime with popular music), rampant stupidity, poor school performance, and so on and so forth.

    Radio did not come in for that kind of criticism (for the most part) because it was pretty bland. News, sports, music, soap opera, quiz shows, and dramas just didn't trigger a lot of criticism. Like the first several decades of TV, there were only 3 networks (NBC, CBS, and Mutual) which all carried similar programming, and radio listening was, like television, a family activity. Teenagers didn't have their own radio or TV until later on. And even if they did, there were no "dark corners" of radio and TV broadcasting that deviant teenagers could tap into to be victimised.

    Was life back then (1930s - 1970s) so pure and wholesome that parents need not worry? Hardly. But Radio and TV were controlled by large corporations like RCA, CBS, Westinghouse, and so forth, and the taste of the bourgeoisie prevailed.
  • unenlightened
    4.7k
    Take a 1906 cartoon from Punch, the satirical British weekly magazine. A young man and young woman are sitting under a tree, with ticker-tape boxes in their laps. The caption reads: “These two figures are not communicating with one another. The lady receives an amatory message, and the gentleman some racing results.” The development of the “wireless telegraph” is portrayed as an overwhelmingly isolating technology.
    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/technophobia-victorian-style-a7097761.html

    Let's not get too paranoid about them noo-fangled de-vices. I'm actually old enough to remember how that teevee was ruining the youth, and that was when there were only two channels and they shut down at 10.30 at night.

    Still, internet has some problems and harms some people. Mainly in the same ways people have always been harmed. The bubble of like-minded internet associates not different in kind from the bubble of rural life in the 18th century, for example. The commodification is no worse than that of slavery, serfdom or industrial exploitation etc.
  • T Clark
    4.2k


    Although this takes a different track than the other posts on this thread, I think it is relevant.

    I have always been partial to the concept of "good enough" parenting. There is no doubt in my mind that my appreciation for this way of seeing things is a reflection of my deeply embedded laziness. Good enough parenting is, well, good enough. Children are given, imperfectly, the security, support, affection, and interest they need. The parent is loving, supportive, consistent, and interested - sometimes, maybe often - but not always. Often enough. The parent sometimes (often?) fails to give the child what it wants and needs. If I may possibly overstate the case - the parent's failures are the anvil on which the child's identity is forged.

    This is related to something I believe as a father of three - children are who they are the minute they come out of their mothers. Probably before that. I've never met an experienced parent who didn't recognize that.

    So, what's the point as it relates to this thread - If a child has a decent life with parents who try to give them the security, support, affection, and attention they need, the kid will turn out ok - with an intact identity and a reasonable chance at happiness.

    When I was a kid, it was television that was going to rot our brains, and look how well I turned out.
  • Forgottenticket
    163
    Internet forum culture seems to be dying out (even this one is a quasi-backup of an earlier one which closed). They will probably be a footnote if anything.
    Social media is obviously fairly important to developmental psychology and developmental psychology is lifelong. I've seen elderly people become very different people once they got online and could hide their biological age.
  • thewonder
    412
    I feel like the problem arises out of a basic emotional disconnect. People fail to awknowledge that they are interacting with others online. The situation is one of a generalized anomie. Everything is supposed to be as if everyone is connected, but, often times, online engagement can just simply be further alienating.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    ALL of this existed before the personal computer and the Internet. Long before.Bitter Crank

    Then, maybe correlation does not imply causation; but, the internet sure can amplify these dysphoric moods.

    This is what Erikson had to say about identity formation:

    Erikson's belief is that throughout each person's lifetime, they experience different crises or conflicts. Each of the conflicts arises at a certain point in life and must be successfully resolved for progression to the next of the eight stages. The particular stage relevant to identity formation takes place during adolescence, called "Identity versus Role Confusion."[4]

    The "Identity versus Role Confusion" stage consists of adolescents trying to figure out who they are in order to form a basic identity that they will build on throughout their life, especially concerning social and occupational identities. They face the complexities of determining one's own identity. Erikson said this crisis is resolved with identity achievement, the point at which an individual has extensively considered various goals and values, accepting some and rejecting others, and understands who they are as a unique person.[5] Once an adolescent has attained identity achievement, they are ready to enter the next stage of Erikson's theory "Intimacy versus Isolation" where they will form strong friendships and a sense of companionship with others. If the "Identity versus Role Confusion" crisis is not solved, an adolescent will face confusion about future plans, particularly their roles in adulthood. Failure to form one's own identity leads to failure to form a shared identity with others, which could lead to instability in many areas as an adult. The identity formation stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development is a crucial stage in life.
    Erikson

    I don't think it really needs to spelled out; but, here is the gist. Identities are retarded by the anonymity that one can have on the internet. People who don't feel comfortable in their skin or around other people, are at a predisposition towards the addictive qualities of the internet, along with exacerbating their neurosis. Adolescents are drawn towards the fantasy of the internet, or some choose to intellectualize endlessly. Then, there's something to be said about defense mechanisms, which are amplified by the opaqueness of intent and personality on the internet.

    I mean just read the above... I think Erikson would claim, if he were still alive to this day, that the internet is the anti-thesis to forming a healthy identity for adolescents and youth.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    The bubble of like-minded internet associates not different in kind from the bubble of rural life in the 18th century, for example. The commodification is no worse than that of slavery, serfdom or industrial exploitation etc.unenlightened

    So, then the issues of inadequacy or social approbation become sublimated on the internet, where one can exercise their issues with other unknowing interlocutors. And, if one's ideas are met with hostility or outright banning, then one can always get a VPN to hide their IP address, and return to troll the would-be oppressors.
  • Shawn
    10.7k


    Well, some people are considering leaving a child with a PC to the internet, as 'benign neglect'. I think there's some merit to this idea, given what can be found on the internet. Back a while ago, before super-algorithms were around and about on the internet, it was way too easy to find pornography on the internet, for a child. Nowadays, Google, Facebook, and others rely on a combination of algorithms and human moderators to filter content. The internet is becoming a more sanitary environment due to this; but, I wonder what this all leads towards.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    I feel like the problem arises out of a basic emotional disconnect. People fail to awknowledge that they are interacting with others online. The situation is one of a generalized anomie. Everything is supposed to be as if everyone is connected, but, often times, online engagement can just simply be further alienating.thewonder

    That's one of the cruxes of the internet. It's a substitute for feelings of loneliness, boredom, sadness, angst, and anger, which are all of these important things that prod an individual towards forming an identity. If you have a reality where anything goes, then people become more estranged from themselves. I mean, it's not the Matrix... yet.
  • thewonder
    412
    It seems like the internet demands a certain degree of established distance. I think that it can be good to explore an alternative identity online, but, wonder if the seemingly anonymous nature of online discourse doesn't lend itself to that a person dissociates rather than creates an extenuating identity. The crutch of the character mask lets a person become as another online. The simulated experience of acting as another is no substitute for actual human interaction. You should continue to develop your own identity, even anonymously.

    Hopefully the dystopian futures projected in Cyberpunk media will never manifest into reality. I do think that talking to people online can be a worthwhile form of social interaction. I think that the problem is just that the social ecology of the net engenders dissociation and alienation. Everyone is connected, but, no meaningful connections are ever established.

    The medium also just simply has its limits. It's kind of unnatural to just type away before plasma. A person shouldn't neglect that they probably do desire to communicate with others in the so-called "real world".
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Well, some people are considering leaving a child with a PC to the internet, as 'benign neglect'. I think there's some merit to this idea, given what can be found on the internet. Back a while ago, before super-algorithms were around and about on the internet, it was way too easy to find pornography on the internet, for a child. Nowadays, Google, Facebook, and others rely on a combination of algorithms and human moderators to filter content. The internet is becoming a more sanitary environment due to this; but, I wonder what this all leads towards.Wallows

    I guess my point was, don't worry too much about the internet. Love your kids. Protect them. Keep them safe. And you don't even have to do it well, just well enough. Children are pretty resilient. They deserve to be treated well, but they can thrive in imperfect situations. Trust them. You couldn't make it perfect for them if you wanted to. And if you did, it wouldn't be what they need.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    That's one of the cruxes of the internet. It's a substitute for feelings of loneliness, boredom, sadness, angst, and anger, which are all of these important things that prod an individual towards forming an identity. If you have a reality where anything goes, then people become more estranged from themselves. I mean, it's not the Matrix... yet.Wallows

    You keep speaking authoritatively about how the internet is bad for the development of identity, but you don't provide any support beyond "seems to me...."
  • Bitter Crank
    8.7k
    "I don't think it really needs to spelled out" but true enough, the Internet is not a very helpful tool for the adolescent to use for their self-development. Failure to achieve a stable identity and role in life predate the Internet. Adolescents have lost themselves in daydreaming, books, movies, and other solitary pass times. Reading can be a substitute for having a lively circle of friends. Spending a lot of time in a dark movie theatre is a good way to hide.

    Look. I don't think the Internet is an appropriate vehicle for children to find, define, or establish themselves. Well-informed adults can have difficulty sorting fact from fiction on line, and for young people it is extremely difficult. Can teenagers end up getting twisted by being on the internet too much? Sure -- just as they can be twisted by falling in with the wrong crowd on their block.

    The Internet IS good for many things, but young persons' social development is not one of them. Social development needs real (face to face) interaction; establishing one's personal identity requires actual experiences with the real world.

    Most children in the world, with or without the Internet, do manage to successfully make their way to adulthood as well developed personalities.
  • Shawn
    10.7k
    You keep speaking authoritatively about how the internet is bad for the development of identity, but you don't provide any support beyond "seems to me...."T Clark

    Do you spend any time on Facebook, Tinder, or Twitter?

    You can see this post again:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/301866
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