What is Cyberpsychology?

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Cyberpsychology | Green Ephemera Shaped Like a Human Head

As technology has become ubiquitous, a relatively new branch of psychology has received more attention. Cyberpsychology, the study of how humans interact with and around technology, has helped us better understand modern maladies like online addiction and social media-based low self-esteemCyberpsychology | Statistics. It also has helped scientists comprehend technology’s impact on changes in how we communicate and how we discern false information online. Psychologists conduct research and clinical tests to better learn how humans interact and interpret technology. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace showed an increase in perceived body image discrepancy after participants were shown a 3D version of themselves through virtual reality.

According to a study, 89 percent of U.S. adults use the Internet and 95 percent own a cellphone of some kind. The growth of technology in the U.S. has emphasized the importance of cyberpsychologists and psychological studies on our relationship with virtual reality.

How Technology has Shaped Psychology

With new technology impacting our lives, cyberpsychologists are faced with new psychological phenomena. Not until recently did society have to grapple with the lightning-fast spread of false information online, or why people would create exaggerated versions of themselves online. Technology has also changed the way we think. Instead of going to a brick and mortar store for a product, we often check online first. When we communicate, our first instinct is to call or text. The convenience of technology has impacted our psychology.

Technology has also shaped psychology in other ways. Individuals who either didn’t have access to mental healthcare or were worried about the stigma associated with it can now be treated from anywhere in the world thanks to e-therapy. In addition, virtual reality technology has provided psychologists with greater tools to treat patients, including members of the armed forces.

Positive Impact of Technology

As touched on above, technological advancements have led to many positive impacts for human psychology.

For one, patients seeking mental healthcare can reach psychologists they may never had been able to before. Individuals with a smartphone can download a mobile app and, within seconds, access therapy techniques for a variety of maladies, including depression, anxiety, and anger. For a fee, there are mobile apps and websites that can virtually connect an individual with a licensed therapist, access to which may not have been possible otherwise.

Another facet of how technology has shaped psychology is through virtual reality (V/R). Using V/R, psychological tests for soldiers serving abroad can be done online to screen for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). V/R has also helped researchers measure function in people with dementia, people’s addictions to drugs and alcohol, and even evaluate job candidates’ skills and abilities.

Video games have sometimes received negative feedback, but research has shown that playing action video games has helped children improve cognitive functions. Studies have shown that playing video games improved users’ ability to track moving objects through a field of distractors and their attention ability. Their visual-spatial capabilities, the ability to manipulate two- and three-dimensional figures, also showed improvement compared to those who weren’t playing video games.

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The Negative Impact Technology Has on Your Mental Health

Social media addiction is one of the largest research topics within contemporary cyberpsychology. One study estimated that the average American spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook, and 50 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds open Facebook when they wake up. Research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal studied those suffering from “Facebook addiction,” which is when an individual engages in “excessive, compulsive Facebook use for the purposes of mood alteration,” which can lead to negative outcomes.

Research from the same article also found that extensive Facebook users have a lower grade-point average than non-Facebook users, and the “freedom of self-presentation” can encourage Facebook users to present glamorized versions of themselves and otherwise distort the truth for others to see. In addition, studies have shown that people who regularly use Facebook are more likely to be envious of others and consider their own life “unfair” due to what they see from other people’s posts.

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

Another example of the impact of technology and psychology is with FOMO, the fear of missing out. FOMO is a new form of social anxiety centered on social media posts as people want to take part in what others are doing. With the convenience of technology cutting down the time to complete tasks and making our lives easier, it can be enticing to participate in more activities with the free time. In addition, technology has allowed us to share our best moments at all times, leading to potential jealousy in certain situations.

In one example from Alice E. Marwick’s book “Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity and Branding in the Social Media Age,” a millennial-aged tech reporter named Megan McCarthy explained that seeing her friends’ updates on social media gave her anxiety and made her feel like the decision to stay in was a bad one.

In both cases regarding social media addiction and FOMO, new technology led to fascinating psychological issues, which are being researched by the new wave of cyberpsychologists.

The Future of Technology

As technology continues to integrate into our daily lives, the necessity for cyberpsychology grows with it. Cyberpsychology can help future generations understand how we interact with the technology around us and provide the best treatment options, whether through e-therapy, V/R exposure, or easier access to screening.

Cyberpsychology also opens new career avenues for psychologists. Some careers are unique, such as military cybertherapy, which allows remote workers to screen military personnel for their stress-related injuries before returning to action. Others, like working as an online health counselor, help connect to people who wouldn’t otherwise be seen and tested for mental health problems.

It’s expected that many of these unique psychology careers could be available to you in the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field of psychology to grow twice as fast as the national average between 2016 and 2026, adding thousands of jobs to the work force, one of which you can fill. Take the first step with an online bachelor’s in psychology from King University. Learn the fundamentals of psychology that will give you a foundation you can use to then pursue more technical training in one of these emerging psychology fields. Our online program can be finished in as little as 16 months.