Archive - May 29, 2008

Where are you? Mixed groups for Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

I had a wonderful weekend ‘horse camping’ with my wife and youngest daughter. I am finally home, in front of my computers and trying to reconnect and sort through thousands of emails.

I have spent a little time digging through the emails to the Group Psychotherapy mailing list and wanted to hit on several of the themes that have come up. In the discussion about online therapy, Charlie had a great line,

'Where are you?' which can be taken in so many ways. Either as a demand, a simple request or a plaintive cry.

My initial reaction is that ‘where are you?’ can also be a question showing caring, connectedness. I want to know where some of my friends on the list are. I think about Toby and her mother and her Aunt. I think of Ofra and her grandchildren. I think of Sheila, and too all of them I think of asking them ‘where are you?’ as more of an emotional, psychic temperature taking. A telling of the other, I care, I want to know how you are doing. I suspect this may be part of the aspect of constant partial attention that I talk a lot about.

Digital natives need to feel constantly connected with their friends. Perhaps some of it has to do with the age of many digital natives. Teenagers spend time trying to define their identity. Identity is tied to the groups we are part of, and as people work on defining their identity, they need to feel especially connected to their groups.

Carol had a wonderful comment about this saying

I wonder how many old issues of inclusion and exclusion get activated when one is "invited".
the facebook phenomenon feels very "junior high" to me when it comes to internet networking

Yeah, that sounds about right. It is probably amplified in cases because all we have is the generic text asking someone to be a friend, with perhaps a little added personal text. There is the ability to write it off as if the person didn’t get the request. There is less of the shuffling of the feet, looking away from the person out of embarrassment, shyness or fear. So, we send more messages to be connected. We explore new ways of using text. We put up pictures of ourselves on Facebook and join groups to define ourselves and the idea of simply leaving Facebook or not putting up personal information just isn’t realistic. This gets back to a discussion from Computers, Freedom and Privacy last week that I want to explore more.

However, I want to get back to the emails from my friends on the Group Psychotherapy list. In the discussion about whether of not therapists should add clients as friends on social networks, or accept friendship requests from clients may require another variable in the calculation. Are the clients digital natives? Are they digital immigrants? Is there a digital aborigine in the mix? Is it some sort of mixed group?

I suspect that accepting or declining friendship in a social network may have very different meanings to people who have grown up in a digital world, where everyone is on social networks and everyone is everyone else’s friend, from people who have come to online social networks later in life and experience them as a foreign way of connecting and communicating.

To push this a little further, Marv commented,

we encourage patients to choose therapists with knowledge of their qualifications, although it¹s startling to find how many new patient¹s are choosing therapists based only on internet research.

As I read this, I wondered how important is it for a therapist to understand the culture that a client is part of. I’m sure this is a topic that people can run a long way with. How much must a therapist understand digital culture when dealing with digital natives? Perhaps this goes back to some of the questions that Bob deals a lot with.

So, I post these as ideas for my friends to ponder.