Cyberpsychology in the Man Cave

Written by: John Suler

Futuristic screen with 'you have a message' on it

John Suler, author of Psychology of the Digital Age: Humans Become Electric (2016), takes us on a cathartic journey through cyberspace to his 'man cave'.


A series of interesting events occurred this past summer.

The people at Cambridge University press and I finished up production of Psychology of the Digital Age: Humans Become Electric. Having completed the long and challenging process of writing that book, I decided to give myself a break from computers and online activities, especially my participation in social media. Instead, I devoted that time to working on the family room in the basement. It had mostly served as a playground for my now grown-up daughters who have moved on to other adventures. The mission I eagerly decided to accept for my non-cyber summer was to turn that space into my very own bonafide ‘man cave‘.

Little did I know these events would converge in ways I had not anticipated. My mission to construct a man cave required that I clear out and reorganize all the closets. As I dug into the many shelves of boxes, I discovered all sorts of things that reminded me of the digital age: old software, CDs, DVDs, device wires and connectors of all types, outdated cell phones and digital cameras, floppy disks, an external floppy disk drive, CD players that no longer worked, an aluminum Apple Cinema display, and folders of papers I had written about the psychology of cyberspace.

“I wondered how cyberspace would continue to infiltrate my territory, and to what degree should I should rely on my man cave as a respite from digital pressure.”

It was like traveling back through time. I even relived my beginnings as a cyberpsychologist as I examined the transparencies for overhead projection that I had prepared twenty years ago for a conference presentation about the Palace avatar community.

Initially anticipating a vacation from the Internet, I instead found myself constantly thinking about it while I sorted through all these archeological artifacts. How fast would the technology we cherish at this moment turn into something like that old floppy drive, now as useful as stone knives and bear skins. Was the digital age unnecessarily clogging up our lives just as its products had taken over not just my mind but my closets as well?

I wondered how cyberspace would continue to infiltrate my territory, and to what degree should I should rely on my man cave as a respite from digital pressure. I could certainly set up a computer that tapped into my wireless network, or connect my stereo system to Pandora ¬– or I could instead read books and listen to old vinyl LPs on the turntable that still worked.

Even theoretical ideas about the eight dimensions of cyberpsychology proposed in my book turned very concrete as I prepared my masculine space. – such as pondering the physical dimension of cyberpsychology architecture (how cyberspace manifests itself tangibly in our lives) while I wrestled with a gigantic squid-like entanglement of device wires.

I began to meditate about the very nature of cyberspace itself. Is it true, as the critics of “digital dualism” claim, that this computer-generated realm is so intrinsically woven into our lives that it does not make sense anymore to talk about it, or do research about it, as if it is something separate? Despite my initial intention to take a break from the Internet, would my man cave eventually succumb to the infiltration of cyberspace, turning into some high tech augmented reality rather than a haven from digitized experiences?

I might be hypnotized by shadows on the cave wall, but these are the kinds of questions that energized me to write Psychology of the Digital Age: Humans Become Electric. They are the questions I will explore in this fifteeneightyfour blog that I am honored to write for Cambridge University Press, and that my colleagues and I will discuss in the roundtable sponsored by CUP.

Perhaps they are even the questions I will consider in my man cave recliner as I listen to the original vinyl LP of Abbey Road.

(PS. The turntable can convert tracks to mp3s)

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About the Author: John Suler

John Suler is author of Psychology of the Digital Age (2016). He is Professor of Psychology at Rider University's Science and Technology Center and Honorary Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland....

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