Cyberpsychology: How has technology changed our behaviour?

10 Jul 2024

Image: Dr Nicola Fox Hamilton

Nicola Fox Hamilton was the latest guest on For Tech’s Sake, diving into the good, the bad and the ugly parts of being so technologically connected.

The world of technology has gone through some extremely fast revolutions. Where we once talked to each other on the phone, suddenly the dawn of the internet meant that we could connect to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Then came chatrooms, forums and social media sites and suddenly there were online communities all over the internet. Then the internet and the phone came together to put all those communities right into our hands all day long.

All of this change unsurprisingly led to massive changes in human behaviour, both online and offline. This is where the study of cyberpsychology comes in.

“Cyberpsychology is where we interact with technology,” said Dr Nicola Fox Hamilton, a lecturer in cyberpsychology at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology. She was speaking on the latest episode of For Tech’s Sake.

“How we engage in the online world is definitely interacting with how we engage offline,” she said. “We used to talk about the ‘real world’ and the ‘online world’, and that’s not really an accurate phenomenon anymore, because everything’s so integrated into what we do on a day-to-day basis.”

In this episode, Fox Hamilton discusses the good, the bad and the ugly parts of being so technologically connected.

While there are big questions to be asked around how constant interaction with the online world may shape our offline world – and not always for the better – Fox Hamilton also spoke about her disdain for technology being used as a scapegoat for bigger societal issues.

“There is so much reporting around phone addiction, screen addiction, social media addiction, game addiction. Addiction gets thrown around so, so much and there is no clinical addiction to any of those things. It is not a clinical phenomenon with particular symptomology and interventions and so on,” she said.

“I’m constantly trying to combat it by saying, we kind of use it colloquially, like, ‘I’m addicted to chocolate’, but it’s not an addiction, you know? Because if your kid was addicted to heroin, you wouldn’t say, ‘Well, how much heroin a day is an acceptable amount of heroin for them to have?’”

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic