A generation that considers an individual faceless if they are not part of social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace can hear an interesting insight from a well known psychiatrist, about the nature of relationships formed in the virtual world.
Teenagers of today who are hooked on to social networking sites could be growing up with a vague idea of the world and their own personality according to psychiatrists who attended the Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
According to Dr Himanshu Tyagi, a Psychiatrist at West London Mental Health Trust, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have reinforced relationships as 'fleeting'- young people feel relationships on the internet can be developed or done away quite nonchalantly.
Explaining this further, Dr Himanshu, said "This is the age group involved with the Bridgend suicides and what many of these young people had in common was their use of internet to communicate. It's a world where everything moves fast and changes all the time, where relationships are quickly disposed at the click of a mouse, where you can delete your profile if you don't like it and swap an unacceptable identity in the blink of an eye for one that is more acceptable. People used to the quick pace of online social networking may soon find the real world boring and unstimulating, potentially leading to more extreme behavior to get that sense."
He explained that teenagers, who socialize online, give less importance to their true identity, getting completely absorbed with the persona they project on the networking sites. This may promote impulsive and even suicidal behavior, Psychiatrists say.
Going a step further, virtual relationships may deprive teenagers of the pulse and cues of real- world relationships, in terms of body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.
"If you can't see the person's expression or body language or hear the subtle changes in their voice, it shapes your perceptions of the interaction differently. The new generation raised alongside internet is attaching an entirely different meaning to friendship and relations, something we are largely failing to notice. This is definitely a line of reasoning that warrants more investigation and research. But there are also benefits including lack of discrimination where wealth, race and gender were less meaningful and a loss of geographical boundaries", Dr Tyagi said.
On the same breath, he warned about the gaping hole that exists in the understanding of these young patients, by psychiatrists who are quite ignorant of the impact of online world on young minds.