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Definition

cyberpsychology

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Cyberpsychology is the field of study pertaining to the way people interact through computers or digital devices and the emotional effects that usage has on the brain. Cyberpsychology is also referred to as internet psychology or web psychology.

Cyberpsychologists and other people who specialize in the study of the mind and behavior use the field to understand the ways in which online life affects their patients. This, in turn, increases their understanding of how to best help their patients' internet and computer-related psychological issues.

Cyber comes from the word cybernetics, which is the operation of computer control and communication. The cyberpsychology field also encompasses rapidly approaching future considerations such as cyborgs, the effects of interaction with artificial intelligence (AI) and robots.

Cyberpsychology studies

Cyberpsychology studies the mental and emotional effects, implications and phenomena of computer and internet use. The study of cyberpsychology shows how people think and behave in different ways while using -- and as a result of using -- technology. Cyberpsychology is especially interested in the effects of social media and virtual reality on the minds of users.

One noted effect of social media is the lowering of a person's self-esteem due to the constant comparison of their own life to the glamorized lives portrayed by the people they follow online. Also related to social media is the fear of missing out (FOMO) and fear of being missed (FOBM), which concerns the compulsive checking of a user’s social media account and posting constant updates out of fear of missing friends and any sort of event.

Other popular topics of study include online identities, personality types on the internet, regressive behavior online, technology, smartphone and social media addictions,  cyberbullying, negative effects on relationships and online gender-switching.

Therapy

Beyond traditional therapy, e-therapy has emerged as a potential way for individuals to receive mental health care. E-therapy is a therapeutic counseling service provided to a patient over the internet. Even though it may be a controversial approach to therapy, it can be beneficial for people who aren't able to go to a therapist in a physical location. E-therapy can also see therapists and patients interact via emails, chats or video.

However, when searching for an e-therapy service, one should ensure that they are talking to a licensed professional. In a past controversy, e-therapy service BetterHelp was discovered to have hidden that they could not guarantee a user was talking to a licensed professional; claiming it was on the user to determine this in their terms of service.

Virtual reality can also be applied in various therapeutic environments, including the treatment of patients with PTSD, autism and phobias. Immersive virtual reality therapy alters a patient's perception of their environment and safely places them in a potentially triggering setting. Here, the patient can securely investigate their fears without any real threats to their wellbeing and while being guided and monitored by a therapist.

This was last updated in September 2019

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