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Stanford Psychiatrist Details Dangers of the Internet

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    Stanford University psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude delivered UM's New Student Convocation address.

    Text messaging, Tweeting, and Facebooking are all day-to-day activities that take up a considerable amount of a person’s time. But the use of such elements of the Internet Age can have negative aspects on our day-to-day reality and behavior. That was the message delivered by Stanford University psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude on August 17 when he spoke at the University of Miami’s New Student Convocation.

    “We each have a personality,” said Aboujaoude, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science who directs the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic at Stanford’s School of Medicine. “We can be shy, we can be extroverted. We can be intense. These are personality traits that…tend to be fixed with time. But we each have an e-personality, a way of interacting with the world that can be quite different from how we are off line.”

    Students got the opportunity to ask questions of Aboujaoude during the Q&A portion of the event.

    It is our e-personalities that often have negative traits, said Aboujaoude, noting that some of those negative traits include narcissism, a feeling that there is nothing we can’t accomplish, a tendency to be impulsive, and a regression back to a less mature phase in our development.

    “When we spend seven to eight hours a day playing violent video games or acting in superficial ways online, some of these characteristics become imported into our off-line real life, eventually changing us in the image of our Avatar and making society look more and more like a chat room,” he said.

    Aboujaoude, who is author of the book Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, also addressed “e-language,” the new type of vocabulary that permeates online communication but has no resemblance to the spoken language people learned. “What’s lost is the ability to use language in a more mature way,” he explained.

    “This is not a manifesto for you to log off,” Aboujaoude told students, “but an invitation for you to think before you click.”

    He called on the so-called “digital natives,” people born in the mid-to-late 1990s, to develop “a more objective assessment of the Internet—both the good and the bad.”


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