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Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  293 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Whether sharing photos or following financial markets, many of us spend a shocking amount of time online. While the Internet can enhance well-being, Elias Aboujaoude has spent years treating patients whose lives have been profoundly disturbed by it. Part of the danger lies in how the Internet allows us to act with exaggerated confidence, sexiness, and charisma. This new se ...more
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published February 7th 2011 by W. W. Norton Company
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Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Books of this ilk almost exclusively blow, which I guess makes how good this one is even more impressive. The premise of Virtually You is that the costs of the internet are felt away from the computer, far enough away that often we fail to recognize the link. It's a pretty straightforward book--he pinpoints five negative psychological forces enabled by the web and each gets a chapter: Grandiosity, Narcissism, Darkness, Regression, and Impulsivity. The point isn't that these things happen online, ...more
Jay
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The internet has evolved considerably since the publication of this book. Some of the examples drawn here -- such as Second Life, The Sims, email dependency (for non-corporate reasons that is) -- have since faded in popularity. Even memes don't look the same as they did six years ago. Indeed, it would be great to see an updated edition that now explores phenomena like Instagram, SnapChat and Uber.

But what remains true and/or compelling is the ways in which the Internet is transforming our psych
...more
Daniel Solera
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the third and last review in my “Dangers of New Technologies” series. When I put together my order for Nicholas Carr’s and Sherry Turkle’s books, Virtually You was the most recommended by Amazon, so in the cart it went. It more closely approximates Nicholas Carr’s style and focus but takes a broader brush and discusses the issue more horizontally. Rather than concentrate solely on neuroscience, he tackles the effect of the internet on our psyche, interpersonal relationships, learning sty ...more
David
May 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Frames various negative aspects of the Internet in personality dysfunction terms (e.g., propensity to fire off ill-advised emails when intoxicated or just without giving sufficient thought to impact = impulsivity; describing yourself in inflated terms in a craigslist personals ad = narcissism, etc.).

In many instances it's impossible to disagree with his conclusions -- being able to bet on stuff or order stuff online facilitates compulsive gambling and shopping; ignoring your actual relationships
...more
Chris Friend
Jun 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Like many other reviewers here, I read this title along with Turkle’s Alone Together and Carr’s The Shallows. Of the three, this author seems more casual at times than the other two, resorting to nearly flippant stinger remarks to end paragraphs. Surprisingly, I was also the impression that this author included less direct research than the other two—surprising because Aboujaoude is a practicing psychologist while Carr is a writer with no opportunity for his own research work.

The author takes a
...more
Vivian
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Should we be surprised that some of us invent new personalities on dating sites, to attract more attention? Is it shocking that the easy availability of gambling or shopping plays into addictive personalities? And, yes, if you're looking to waste time, nothing's better than surfing the internet, and getting pulled into the rabbit hole...

I suppose I think most of what Elias Aboujaoude explains in this book is pretty darn obvious, to anyone who has spent any time at all on the internet. Some of hi
...more
Brandon Amico
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Lots of interesting insights into the way we interact with the internet and its many avenues for communication, pleasure, and work, and the implications for this new technology on our adaptable brains. Lots of research-based analysis too, except sometimes (in more than a couple instances) he throws research to the side and makes big pronouncements about how the Internet is Big Bad and is ruining our language and making kids violent automatically. A shame because him not being able to keep his op ...more
Kana
Summary
This is the clinical observation and chronological document of..the history of the internet and it's direct psychological impact on humans.
Actually that's a pretty accurate description. The author/doctor has done alot of research (though I noticed some details were either missing important aspects or were wrong), but his take on it is very sterile. This is a doctor who found himself faced with several patients who's mental disorders and psychological issues had a direct correlation with
...more
Gypsy
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of the book almost turned me off of the book; it had that annoying "Internet is bad" tone of voice that one might expect from some computer illiterate overly concerned elders. Since I constantly remind myself to NOT form strong opinions one way or the other about ANYTHING without at least experiencing it first, and I do like learning new ideas & different perspectives, I decided to read the book even though the title was a bit off-putting to me.
I’m very glad I did, because the book
...more
Mia
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of Facebook: "We let everyone know we were fans of Starbucks, 'Battlestar Gallactica,' and pants." (In unrelated news, why is the word "pants" so funny?)

Ah, the chapter about how we read on the internet (apparently we don't) was disheartening. We "scan" or--what's worse?--"power scan." (That latter connotes a very unlovely protein shake). Aboujaoude is a reductive sort of shrink (and sometimes a reductive sort of thinker!), throwing around invocations to the id and ego in a way that seemed a bit
...more
Erika Nerdypants
It's not that I didn't like this book, just that some information in here wasn't really ground-breakingly new, and having read this some time after publication, some of the information presented is already outdated. Having said that, this book did contain some interesting tidbits on Facebook's policies and Google's limited privacy policy. Perhaps the point driven home the most, was the fact that once something is out there in cyberspace, it can never, ever be taken back, and may come to haunt yo ...more
Hadrian
At some points, this book ventures into Luddism and snobbery, but some facets and observations ring true - people can act completely differently when they are not held accountable for their actions, and the internet acts as a veil of anonymity. The Internet is truly addictive - again, no surprise. MMOs, online shopping, and online gambling are already big suspects for this. Some neat observations, but I kept getting the impression of mountains from molehills.
Rhonda
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Well written and readable. The author, a psychiatrist who specializes in OCDC and impulse control with expertise in digital media may be more prone to see the problems and issues that exist in use of the Internet, social networking, virtual worlds, etc. Certainly those issues make good copy. Another book could be written on the benefits of the same digital media.
Caroline Mcphail-Lambert
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A psychiatrist's look at some of the detrimental fall-out from being too much in our online world. Aboujaoude gives readers his take on people's e-personalities and how those can affect our real lives, and he explains his beliefs about how the internet change people and societies. One section that really hit home for me is the chapter on, "Ordinary everyday viciousness," (pg 88-118). Aboujaoude queries, "Why is it that online communities, which on the surface have a big unifying interest that sh ...more
Huien
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Entire book reads like a Gen X diatribe against the internet and all things digital. The writer doesn't seem to understand the way the internet works, and instead just explores everything! that's! wrong! about! it! For a book published in 2011, many key facets of the internet were also left unmentioned, which makes the book come across as poorly researched.

Many of the points the author raises I agree with instinctively. I wish he had substantiated them with solid research and better arguments! T
...more
Michaela Crutcher-Lord
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful analysis on the culture of e-personalities (Internet personas) versus our truth. The author gave specific examples in each chapter. The ironic quality about his writing is everything he has suggested has bled into modern life. I felt it epitomized the importance of detaching one’s self from the Internet world. Many people’s livelihoods are dependent upon what the virtual world thinks of them, despite not yearning for the same recognition in person.
Jackson Matthews
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While a bit strident in places, Aboujaude warns of the dangers of putting too much fantasy into the ePerson, and not enough real knowledge and learning capability into the real one. It is easier to skim than delve, but delve makes the scholar [sorry, e-afficiandos]
Brian Garber
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Read this for a continuing education class @ Stanford. It was OK, not very engaging.
David
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a sobering, realistic shot in the arm analysis of virtual culture. The Internet is forever changing the way we think, act, and, above all, view our offline selves. This book goes into depth on what are the reasons behind the impulsiveness, voyeurism, narcissistic, and other flawed personality traits that seem to distract us from our true selves.

So, this is in face a highly recommended book to all who value their privacy, and all who want to better understand it all when so much crap is
...more
Abdulaziz Fagih
I can see this book getting 2 stars but I choose to give it only one and that for a quit good reason. This book is well written and easy to read but that all it is. this book is made of pure paranoia and lack of understanding of the people using the internet.

When I first picked this book it was for a reason but after reading few chapters I noticed the trends in the book and I understood I was fooled when I picked it up.

When I saw the title and the subject of the book I was immediately interested
...more
Jonathan B
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This book focuses on the negative or dangerous aspects of our digital lives. Aboujaoude shows how the internet can foster things like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (even creating new forms of OCD that don't exist in the "real world") an unrealistic sense of entitlement, narcissism, a false sense of security, greater inclination toward immoral behavior (e.g., rudeness and name calling in online discussion), and a false sense of knowledge among other things.

It's important to realize that Aboujaoud
...more
Jac
Jan 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This one is worth checking out. Some of this is information I already knew, but hadn't really stopped to process (something Aboujaoude talks about as a result of this virtual age). What I appreciate most is that although the author gives some extreme examples, he is writing the book for the average internet user. He is not advocating disconnecting our lives altogether, but rather points out the dangers of living in a world inundated with the internet and technology. This book has certainly inspi ...more
Lauren
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
What is the price of creating an online persona? How does communication over the Internet affect how we communicate in real life? Dr. Aboujaoude explores these questions and others in a book that traces how the Internet is bringing out the worst in all of us. He’s by no means anti-technology – instead, he believes the public should know the costs and risks of a wired life.

The strongest chapters are those that stay within psychiatry, Dr. Aboujaoude’s specialty. It’s when he folds in social and/o
...more
Darby
Sep 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
If you're already convinced the internet will lead to the downfall of civilization, this book is for you. If you're a fan of the outdated theories of Freud, read on. But if you want a good, scientifically-based work that examines the impact of our online lives, look elsewhere.

This book is full of theories posited, but never supported, by the author. By far, the most common word found in this book is "may," as in "the Internet MAY cause this" or "that MAY be a result of time spent online." The au
...more
Sarah
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book makes a lot of excellent points about our online identities and how they can change us. He discussed a lot of the upsetting phenomenon I've seen and participated in very well. I found a lot of his hypotheses interesting, although I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions he came to.

I was disgusted when he said that teen boys shared a consensual (and reciprocal) shirtless photo of teen girls online because "boys will be boys." Those boys were responsible for choosing to share a p
...more
Carrie O'Maley Voliva
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Aboujaoude, a California psychiatrist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorder, presents perhaps one of the best written books (one of the only?) on the dangers of society's Internet dependence. Although he presents studies and uses some medical terminology, this book is very readable and even enjoyable. He gives real-life examples of the ways in which Internet addiction has affected people--breaking up relationships and pulling people away from reality. He touches on the differences in ...more
Tiffany
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Extraordinary insight into the way our virtual "selves" can take on a life of their own, and even spill over into our non-virtual world. This is a timely discussion for our day, where we are not only spending more and more time online but also changing the way we relate to ourselves and other people. I appreciated his balanced view - the point is not to remove technology from our lives but instead to learn how to live with it. Being aware of the danger can help us to set the right boundaries and ...more
Allison
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non
An interesting look at our online lives. After reading (online) articles about how the Internet has changed through the years - going from using screen names and hiding real identities to NEEDING real identities to prove you're human - this is a look at the other side of things. How much information are you putting out there about yourself? What can people find out about you, and how will they use that information? I think the book might be a little more geared towards safety in regards to ident ...more
jen8998
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
The second book on this theme that I've read recently, Aboujaoude focuses on problems associated with excessive use of internet/social media. He posits that social media use creates a virtual you, a part of you freed from the usual inhibitions and mores of everyday life. He suggests that this virtual you promotes narcissism, impulsivity, morbid preoccupations, and a jarring lack of empathy. The author runs an OCD clinic specializing in individuals struggling with various addictions to internet, ...more
Rob Roy
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a psychology book about our online personality. While interesting, the author belabors the point, and surprisingly is a bit of a luddite. The book was published in 2012, though from the dates in the text, was compiled and written mainly in 2010 and 11. Oddly, it is dated! Cyber waits for no one! He does make some good points, we do need to curb our fixation on the Internet, yet, today’s world is wired, and the author has missed that point. If you are interested in the psychology of the I ...more
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