Late adopter that I am, it doesn’t seem like so long ago that, after many, many attempts to learn how, I finally sent out my first e-mail, whispered, “What hath God wrought!”—and then had to go lie down for a while. E-mail and Google got me through the door of the Internet Age, and I even learned to open an attachment. Until recently, that was as far as I was prepared to go, and I vowed that I’d never get involved with some damn thing called “Web 2.0,” alias “social networking,” a.k.a. “interactive community.”
But then during the past several years, as you may have noticed, the world has continued to change at an ever-more head-spinning rate, and even I’ve had to stop and pay attention. It’s become clearer and clearer that if the Networker is to extend its reach within the psychotherapy community, the print incarnation that you’re reading right now—at least we hope you still actually read it—will take that reach only so far. We’ve had to recognize the pull and primacy of the new media.
As a result, we’ve developed a vast array of online offerings through our Networker Plugged-In programs, including real-time One-on-One interviews with the biggest names in the field, live Case Consultations, Telecourses, and Audio Courses. (See psychotherapynetworker.org.) As we’ve gotten better at doing it, and as therapists have warmed to the world of Web 2.0, we’ve felt the heady exhilaration of hosting web events that draw hundreds, sometimes thousands, of therapists to a strangely intimate experience of connecting across vast distances .
All of this has been great, but I must tell you about my newest romance with technology that’s taken me even further. I’ve fallen hard for a sleek, silvery little beauty that fits gracefully into the palm of my hand—and does this baby have talent! She holds 160 GB of storage, enough for 40,000 songs, 25,000 photos, 200 hours of video; her batteries hum along for up to 36 hours without recharging.
When I’m with my Apple iPod, I feel like a sorcerer with powers beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I’m particularly taken with the world of podcasts, which allow me to spend hours—at the gym, in my car, walking around my neighborhood—taking in some of the greatest thinkers and talkers on the planet whenever I want to. Instead of getting lost in my usual inner chatter or lulling myself with some background distraction, it’s as if all varieties of wise and eminently interesting men and women have vividly materialized in my head, not so much “out there” in the Big World as “close in,” part of my own inner circle.
Rather than isolating us from each other, the Internet, when used with awareness and imagination, offers the possibility of opening us up to compelling and life-enhancing connection. In fact, in this issue’s lead story, Melinda Blau argues that, thanks to the Internet, we’re in the midst of a “Relationship Revolution”—a radical shift in the way we view ourselves and our social ties. She quotes psychologist Ken Gergen about the irresistible connectivity of the Internet: “‘You might sit at your computer, thinking you own and control your own ideas, but it doesn’t take long before you realize that you’re part of a bigger network. . . . To look at yourself as a single being is absurd. The new way to look at it is, ‘I am connected, therefore I am.'”
To be sure, the Internet vastly increases our ability to natter on and on to a vast, unseen audience, but much more important, it materializes entirely new worlds as if by magic. More than anything, it gives us a chance to put aside our normal habit-bound egocentrism and appreciate a fascinating wider world we’d otherwise ignore. So maybe while we’re all still finding our sea legs on our collective journey of discovery about cyberspace, the crucial first step might be to take a breath, button our traps, and do something that we’re rarely encouraged to do amidst the nonstop gabfest going on around us: remind ourselves what it means to just listen.
Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.