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Unintended Consequences of Life in the Internet Age

HealthCare Marketing Group's Matthew McHolland

HealthCare Marketing Group’s Media Psychologist, Matthew McHolland

HealthCare Marketing Group is a team of individuals who are experts in their fields. This week, our Media Psychologist, Matthew McHolland, writes about the unintended consequences of living in the Internet Age.

The Internet has become part of our anatomy in the 21st century. Americans spend hours online every day, and while research is taking place and work is getting done, much of our collective time is spent on social media sites, looking at cat memes and arguing with strangers on web forums. There have been some unintended consequences as a result of this technology: Some of it has been positive, but some has been negative.

Social Consequences of Living in the Internet Age

There have always been people who recharge by interacting with others, and people who recharge by being alone. These are extroverts and introverts, respectively, and this is nothing new. What is new, however, is that now introverts and extroverts alike can have their social needs met online.

While the Internet can bring us together as a culture, the irony is that it can also drive us away from friends and family members. In other words, we live together, but are emotionally separated. In this sense, alienation is the price we pay for a more stimulating and educational Internet experience.

Physical Consequences of Living in the Internet Age

Ask anyone who sits at a computer all day, and they’ll tell you that they’re not as fit or healthy as they used to be. You’ve probably heard the new adage that “sitting is the new smoking.” When Americans spend hours staring at a screen, they can suffer from eyestrain, muscle stiffness and the cardiovascular effects of being sedentary.

Media exposure leads to the release of dopamine, which, in turn, can lead to addiction. Internet addiction is real, much like gambling addiction, and it should be taken seriously. According to The Atlantic, the Internet has the potential to alter the chemistry of our brains.

Medical Consequences of Living in the Internet Age

You have probably seen this in your own practice: A patient comes to you, sure that he or she has some obscure disease because “Dr. Google” has diagnosed it. In today’s world, patients can type their symptoms into a search engine and the browser spits out a list of (usually fatal) conditions that have the same symptoms.

Another issue that doctors often face is that upon writing a prescription for a necessary medication, the patient refuses to take it. Why? Because they read on a web forum that a stranger somewhere had a fatal reaction to the drug. You may have patients who do not take medication that can prolong their lives because they are worried about a slightly raised chance of liver disease later. On the other hand, your patients may go to the other extreme, insisting that they need a certain medication that was recommended on a web forum or Facebook post.

What Does This Mean for You?

As a physician practicing in the 21st century, it’s extremely beneficial for you to have an active Internet presence. You can negate some of the bad information out there with your own correct information while boosting your authority.  It’s also wise to keep in mind that patients might be suffering from Internet addiction and other social and emotional issues exacerbated by the overuse of media.

Keeping updated on the latest trends pertaining to the Internet, marketing and media psychology can benefit not only your practice, but your patients as well.

Matthew McHolland is a Media Psychologist with HealthCare Marketing Group. He has a BA in Media Psychology from California State University San Marcos. Matthew is currently working on his Masters of Arts in Media Psychology at Fielding Graduate University. His specialty is neuromarketing, particularly how technology positively and negatively affects the human psyche. In his free time, he enjoys learning and talking about the cosmos, watching sci-fi movies/shows and traveling around the world.

Matthew can be reached at Matthew@HealthCareMarketingGroup.com