Real Problems in a Virtual Life

Feeling Twee-dicted? Dr. Ole Thienhaus, a psychiatrist and chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, discusses the effects of social media he’s seeing in patients.

Do we really need 16 Facebook friends to comment on our breakfast cereal?

It plays to the human need for contact and exchange, but it’s very low risk. If you get a negative comment, you can just wipe it out, and because it’s all friends-based, it’s rare anyway. The need of the human animal to be social is met, along with avoidance of tensions and unpredictability of the personal one-on-one relationship.

What are the negatives?

I have had several patients who complain about their mates, their spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, or, in some particularly sad cases, children who are not participating in real life but only in virtual life. If we can’t maintain a meaningful marriage, if one of the partners, after coming home from work and a quick meal, spends the next six hours doing nothing but cruising on the Internet, it’s a real problem. It leads to marital crisis.

At that extreme, what can be done?

It’s almost like an addiction. They should probably seek a professional to talk about what is best in their particular circumstance.