Technology is increasingly omnipresent in our daily lives. Take a look around on your next train journey, coffee break or even meal out with friends and you’ll see people absorbed in worlds beyond physical perception. It is not just our smartphones that are changing the world we inhabit; virtual and augmented reality, games consoles and tablets are more accessible, salient and enticing with each upgrade. In August this year, members of the British Psychological Society approved Cyberpsychology as an official subdivision within the society. This result ensures the recognition of the hard work and dedication of countless individuals who have been striving to put Cyberpsychology on the map.
Cyberpsychology is “the psychological processes, motivations, intentions and behavioural outcomes, and effects on both our online and offline worlds, associated with any form of technology.” – Attrill (2016)
Within psychological research, Cyberpsychology is the study of how technology impact our behaviour; covering everything from social media and cybercrime to solo and multiplayer virtual reality and gaming, such as Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPGs). As technologies are so ingrained in our lives, Cyberpsychology can address various areas of research including; Addiction, Interpersonal relationships, Self-esteem, Mental Health, Neurobiology, Interventions, Forensics and Consumerism.
If you Google the phrase ‘screen time’ it yields 1.75 billion results (as of 30/10/18); a compelling argument for this being a hot topic of our time. Further, the media have recently taken to sensationalising the impact of technology with claims that have little to no strong scientific basis. The most recent one I have found claims ‘the devil lives in our phones.’
Having changed so many of our behaviours in a relatively short time already (think scrolling ASOS whilst bingeing Making a Murderer Part 2 in your pyjamas), it is likely that technology is impacting us in a scientifically measurable way!
Research so far has suggested both positive and negative outcomes for those who use certain technologies. A previous qualitative study by Kleban and Kaye (2015) showed the psychosocial benefits of engaging with Second Life, an online virtual environment built by players and inhabited by their avatars. It was found to boost the confidence and aid in self-discovery of individuals with physical disabilities, and even acted as a form of recreational therapy. However, Rosen et al. (2018) found that technological anxiety (FOMO) predicted reduced college course performance, meaning that those cheeky Facebook scrolls mid-lecture might be doing more harm to your degree than you think.
However, we simply don’t yet know enough about these new and emerging technologies to draw rigorous conclusions of the positive or negative value of technology use. The literature, both grey and peer-reviewed, offers many differing results and opinions with limited strong scientific research being conducted. Accounting for the speed at which new technologies have developed, it is doubtful they will show signs of diminishing. Therefore, now is the time to invest in gaining detailed and conclusive knowledge of the potential benefits or detriments implemented by our interactions with technology.
For Cyberpsychology news, which includes both interesting research and cute animal pictures, make sure you stalk follow these lovely people on Twitter:
Save yourself from the FOMO and join us in our Cyberpsychology journal club! Just drop an email to Maria (Maria.Limniou@liverpool.ac.uk) for more information and to sign up now. All welcome.