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José Benigno Freire Pérez, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The global loneliness syndrome

Thu, 05 Nov 2015 11:03:00 +0000 Posted in Today Extremadura

I declare myself a passionate enthusiast of new technologies. However, I will refer to a possible psychic imbalance caused by excessive or disproportionate use of the Internet. It is a disorder that I venture to predict will fill the offices of psychologists and psychiatrists in the coming years, although my prophetic qualities have yet to be proven. I have dubbed it the "global loneliness syndrome", and it has two distinct levels.

The first level affects the peripheral aspects of the personality, and develops according to patron saint of addictions. It will appear in people who are obsessed, hooked, fanatical about playing, surfing or chatting. Capable of chatting with anyone in virtual spaces, but sullen or reluctant to relate to their wives, husbands, parents, children...

It manifests itself in seemingly minor symptoms: interrupting a conversation, with discourtesy, to answer a whatsApp; keeping the alarms on at all hours and in any place; the pressing obsession to answer a message; preferring solitude connected to a familiar, social meeting (and a thousand similar details). They become progressively connected to the virtual world and disconnected from the real world. It is as if they evaporate from the real. Which causes us to wander (bad Education) in the necessary social contact for human existence. And we are getting used to it! The issue becomes particularly relevant, and requires appropriate measures, if the subject remains too long in this other world and neglects his obligations or reduces the hours of sleep.

The second level already penetrates into the interweaving of intimacy. It is not so much the amount of time as the depth of the internal springs involved. This is why it can easily lead to a serious problem staff , even bordering on abnormality or pathology. Its group of risk is made up of those people who are too fond of chatting with strangers. I will try to explain it: It is convenient for us a previous detour to better face the topic. Obscurity and disguise have always been the preferred scenario for roguery and petty crime, because anonymity minimizes responsibility staff. Well, the virtual universe opens an immense gap towards the unknown.

Chatting with strangers carries the potential risk of talking in disguise. A disguise that, in theory, could cover up an unbalanced personality, a liar, a trickster... or, simply, someone plain and normal. In any case, that character has the opportunity to take advantage of the conversation as a mask or camouflage. And in such a dialogue, groping, we run the certain risk of falling into the clutches of deceit or falsehood, of pretence or trickery, or of torrid and twisted intentions. It represents a risk that should not be exaggerated, but neither should it be minimized.

But the chatting subject also places himself in a comfortable position to slide down the inclined plane of the simulated or pretended. How easy it is, under the impunity of anonymity, to write a kind phrase or a flirtation; to present oneself with a personality closer to one's 'ideal self' than to one's 'real self'; to slightly disfigure one's biography; to turn an aspiration into an achievement, or a failure into a success, and so on. It is so easy that they even escape without purpose or intention to deceive.

However, we maintain an apparently sincere communication between two predictably distorted or pretended persons: a very serious mistake. Such an adventure can get out of hand¿ I warn, seriously and categorically, that psychologically it is tremendously dangerous to play at being someone else, even if it is only for naïve amusement. And even worse if we are moved by the attempt to present ourselves according to our fantasies, or to novelize genuine reality, or to glide through ideal life landscapes, or to try to attract attention or seek consolation. That would affect the very core of our personality. And the matter becomes exaggeratedly complicated if that person is going through a status of affective lack, or sadness. It is like playing with fire in the powder keg of the psyche. It leads to nothing to present oneself from the imagination, to feel sheltered by someone unknown, flattered by a person who in a face to face situation would perhaps change his or her mind, to tell difficulties to a distant stranger instead of solving them, to flee to the refuge of the undefined instead of unburdening oneself with people close to us.... Avoiding reality always causes consequences in the psyche.

We must end with a moral that emphasizes the obvious: communication staff demands a sincere knowledge person to person. Everything else is, at least, a source of uncertainties. Can we not also be deceived in direct communication? Not only can we be deceived, but sometimes we are deceived. However, one has more resources and other tricks. And in any case, in the face of disappointment, one always ends up with a badly wounded heart and a mist of despair in the soul...