Judging by the lives of my clients as well as those of my family and friends, a lot.
People seem to live huge parts of their lives via text message now. They will ask someone out by sending a text; they carry on huge arguments by text, and eventually they even break up by text. Unfortunately, text messaging isn’t very good at expressing emotions and many misunderstandings do occur.
Thanks to the Internet, marriage proposals have become a huge industry. It can cost $2000 or more to stage a marriage proposal that will go viral on Youtube, complete with flash-mob dancing chorus – and to some, that seems to be the only kind of proposal worth saying “yes” to!
Babies continue to be born the (more or less) old-fashioned way, but marriage continues to have its ups and downs with the help of the Internet. Most of us probably know at lease one person who found their high school sweetheart on Facebook and ended up leaving their spouse for their first love. We may discover that our spouse is cheating by looking up phone records online, or perhaps we find an incriminating text or photograph on their phone. (Lipstick on the collar is so last century!)
The porn industry is now perhaps the first “sex educator” for many young people, with often unfortunate results: boys may expect their girlfriends to behave like porn stars, not to mention expecting their own bodies to live up to those of the men in porn videos. Both men and women may think they are sexually inadequate compared to what they view so readily on the Internet. And “porn addiction” has become epidemic with the ready accessibility of online porn.
On the other hand, some excellent sources of help exist online. People may stop drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous online, quit smoking pot with Marijuana Anonymous online, or lose weight with a free online support group (www.sparkpeople.com/). There are countless sources of free online information on mental health topics, from suicide prevention (for example see www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) to anxiety and panic self-help (for instance, www.anxieties.com). Online support groups exist for those struggling with bipolar disorder (see the DBSAlliance online) or schizophrenia (see Schizophrenia.com), as well as many other problems. A great online resource and support group for all kinds of mental health problems is the website PsychCentral.com.
And sex education online doesn’t have to be on pornograph sites, which are misleading at best. For sex education appropriate to teens, see instead Scarleteen, or for adults, try PleasureMechanics.com.
The Internet has changed our world, for better and for worse. We might as well accept it – our children or grandchildren may learn to use a screen before they can turn the pages of a book – if books still exist! If you haven’t yet seen this video of a baby trying to “swipe” a magazine as though it were an Ipad, please enjoy this short clip, A Magazine is an Ipod that Does Not Work.