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Virtually You

The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality


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A penetrating examination of the insidious effects of the Internet on our personalities—online and off.

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 self, which Aboujaoude dubs our "e-personality," manifests itself in every curt email we send, Facebook "friend" we make, and "buy now" button we click. Too potent to be confined online, however, e-personality traits seep offline, too, making us impatient, unfocused, and urge-driven even after we log off. Virtually You uses examples from Aboujaoude's personal and professional experience to highlight this new phenomenon. The first scrutiny of the virtual world's transformative power on our psychology, Virtually You shows us how real life is being reconfigured in the image of a chat room, and how our identity increasingly resembles that of our avatar.


“Dr. Aboujaoude documents a disturbing phenomenon that few medical professionals have written about, or understand, but most have witnessed. This important and intelligent book shows how the Internet has changed our lives, not all for the better. Relationships have become virtual, rather than real, and in the process, our personalities have been transformed to suit the new technology. Not suggesting we reverse the clock, Dr. Aboujaoude suggests we proceed with caution in this brave, new world, and try to better understand the transformative power of this new ‘virtualism.’” — Donald W. Black, MD, professor of psychiatry, University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine

“The effects of the Internet on our individual and collective psyches are becoming clearer and more worrisome every day. Elias Aboujaoude has written a book that not only has been needed for several years but could become a modern classic. A must-read for all of us who log on every day” — Alan F. Schatzberg, MD, former president of the American Psychiatric Association

“Aboujaoude’s thorough review of the psychological and societal dangers of the online world is timely and important. These dangers are richly illustrated with clinical material and are thoughtfully analyzed using relevant research. Anyone who goes online at home or at work, or who has family or colleagues online, should carefully consider the issues raised in his volume.” — Dan Stein, MD, professor and chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cape Town

“This is a timely volume on how the Internet has changed all of us in ways that we may not be aware of or that we prefer not to think about. It is an eye-opener and brings back a much-needed commonsense approach to the challenges posed by modern information and communication technology. The added value of the book is in its reliance on observation, wisdom and clinical experience, as well as data-driven knowledge.” — Vladan Starcevic, MD, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney