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Social media is not just a technology but is essentially human and deeply meaningful.

In the Psychodynamics of Social Networking, Aaron Balick draws on his experience as a psychotherapist and cultural theorist to question the “unconscious drives” behind our online social networking use.

Tell us about your work I had a very interesting encounter after a client had Googled me, an experience in which the digital world disrupted the privacy of my consulting room. I found a nine-inch giant venomous centipede behind my TV, which I handed over to the Natural History Museum. The giant venomous centipede became the most emailed news story in the world the following day, so when clients Googled me, “Giant venomous centipede from behind the television,” came up. Subsequently, I wrote a clinical paper about it (Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 2012 Vol.17 No.2), to better comprehend what occurred and thus share this experience with others. It emerged that such happenings were occurring frequently amongst people who did not have the comfort of psychotherapy to work through the details. So, I decided that rather than writing a clinical book about social networking, I would investigate this cultural phenomenon from an interpersonal perspective to better appreciate its socio-cultural effects.

Tell us about Stillpoint Spaces: My partners and I decided to build Stillpoint Spaces on the shared vision of applying ideas and practices from depth psychology to contemporary life. We did this originally through our public “Psychoanalysis on the Streets” events in Berlin, London, and Zurich. Today we have a Stillpoint Spaces venue in each of those cities, plus Paris and globally online.

Can we imagine that when one tweets, it’s a bit like free association? It seems like no one is watching, though of course there are millions.”

Tell us more about Stillpoint While developing the safe, effective and ethical online delivery of counselling and psychotherapy services, Stillpoint Spaces has much bigger dreams – we are aiming to bring psychotherapeutic thinking to the 21st century by transcending the boundaries of the consultation room and making real stuff happen on the street, in culture, and online. Among these ideas (which will be supported by our ongoing research) will be the development of online spaces that enable and enhance psychological, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. We will be taking a multi-disciplinary approach to this by building relationships with cultural and arts institutions in major cities, creating exciting, psychologically smart spaces online and offline. At Stillpoint Spaces sites we offer new ways to engage with psychology.

What is the biggest takeaway from the book? That technology has become a thing onto which we “project” collectively our doubts and longings. Because of this, we can lose sight of our thinking and respond out of angst. In therapy, we create a “holding environment.” It is imperative to recognise that being deprived of a “holding” environment in childhood can create feelings of insecurity.

“Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.” Historian Melvin Kranzberg

What’s the next challenge for us? It is an important mission and one we all need to be mindful of when we engage on social media. A therapist can help a client rediscover a true sense of being. It is vital for us all to be aware that, no matter how you see yourself on social media, now, more than ever, we need to access the deeper parts of ourselves, so we can operate better and more authentically in this fast-moving world. We need to recognise that on social media we are revealing only one side of ourselves and not necessarily the whole picture. We all need to educate ourselves about the impact of online communication and behaviour. Shame is a powerful emotion that can control our behaviour and infiltrate every aspect of our lives, influencing the way we live.

References The Psychodynamics of Social Networking: Connected-up Instantaneous Culture and the Self

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