Psychology and the Internet (Second Edition)

Article excerpt

JAYNE GACKENBACH (Ed.) Psychology and the Internet (Second edition) Academic Press, 2006, 392 pages (ISBN: 9780123694256, US$59.95 Book/paperback) Reviewed by RICHARD NICKI

An Internet search via Google of "Psychology and the Internet, Reviews" reveals that the first edition of Jayne Gackenbach's book was enthusiastically greeted by reviewers as a very welcome source of information about the nature and relevance of the Internet for readers from diverse scholarly disciplines and locales. Internet accolades for the second edition of her book should only exceed those of the first!

Indeed, Psychology and the Internet (second Edition) provides the reader with 13 informationladen chapters dealing with topics ranging from Evelyn Ellerman's first chapter, which places the Internet in the context of its development in the 1960s in response to the strategic problem of how the United States government could maintain communications if conventional means were destroyed in a nuclear war, to Jayne Gackenbach's and Jim Karpen's final chapter concerned with the Internet and higher states of consciousness and lucid dreaming. In the former, an interesting comparison is made between the cultural effects of the exponential growth of the radio with its "invisible waves" and its use by the military, trained amateurs, business interests, politicians, educators, and the general public to similar developments of the Internet. The book is mainly organized into three parts, Intrapersonal (Chapters 2-6), Interpersonal (Chapters 7-10), and Transpersonal (Chapters 11-13), dealing with a myriad of topics written by specialists in these areas

In the first chapter of Part 1, Connie Varnhagen informs the reader that although children may be subjected to predation, bullying, and exposure to pornography, the Internet provides an overall positive environment for social development. In Chapter 3, Jayne Gackenbach and Heather von Stackelberg discuss new ways of thinking about identity and deepening one's awareness of self online, which seems to be a particular concern of adolescents. They make the interesting observation that as the Internet becomes more common in contemporary society, women will be able to use it more effectively than men because they generally have higher social skills in our society. Adam Joinson's chapter on dis-inhibition makes the point that self-disclosure in the form of online diaries or blogs, flaming or antisocial behaviour, and easy access to all kinds of pornography may stem from a consideration of a wider context involving trust, control, and costs and benefits of having fewer concerns about the judgment of others and the presentation of self. The longest chapter in this section, by Raymond Noonan, deals with the psychology of sex on the Internet. Adult entertainment sites, which already account for at least 10% of the merchant sites on the Web, may only be expected to burgeon along with the advancement of cybersex, erotic chatrooms, blogging, and podcasting or the downloading of audio and video content to compact discs. Sexual diversity with respect to all kinds of erotic images and behaviours is now the norm on the Internet, and Noonan feels that the goals espoused by the World Association for Sexual Health may be fostered by the sexual empowerment of individuals via the Internet. The last chapter by Laura Widyanto and Mark Griffiths in this section revisits the issue of the validity of Internet addiction as an explanatory concept by providing a fairly comprehensive review of psychometric studies purporting to assess this phenomenon. A cogent distinction is made between addiction to the Internet and addiction on the Internet (e.g., excessive cybersex, excessive gambling), and an observation is offered that the true rates of addiction to the Internet are probably quite low among the population.

Part II, concerned with interpersonal aspects of the Internet, begins with a chapter by Caroline Haythornthwaite and Anna Nielsen about the usefulness and appropriateness of CMC or computer-mediated-communication for current users who consist, to a greater and greater degree, of people in the world in general. …