Dr. Aaron Balick is a UKCP registered psychotherapistSocial media has profoundly changed the way we relate to each other. In important ways, through its developments, we have extended ourselves into the digital ether. Online interaction offers an environment where we explore our identities, test our relationships, reach out to others, and present the outward facing aspects of our egos. The psychological consequences of relating in this manner are just beginning to be uncovered.

The nature of death, grief, and mourning is similarly in a state of metamorphosis. If we think back to a time before photographs early in the 19th century, we imagine a mourning process in which the lost person was forever lost; survivors were left only with their memories; few will have had access to painted portraits. What we now think as the cliched experience of sifting through old photographs of our lost loved ones was, at one time, not a cliche, but surely begged the question of whether or not photographs changed the nature of death and mourning.
Online social media enables an extension of the self to remain online after its subject has died. Now, rather than just photographs we have a whole host of information including statements, opinions, and whole conversations. How might these technological innovations again change the face of death and loss?
Humans are humans whether we refer to the bands of hunter/gatherers roaming the savannah at the dawn of civilisation, or the screen-affixed and mobile device addicted contemporary person we find today. How our fundamental psychology adapts to changes in our environment and in response to technology is currently an open question. As the "online selves" of those we lost continue to persist in the digital cloud, it is time to apply some psychological thinking to come to understand it a little better.
(This post  was written by Dr. Aaron Balick ahead of Social Media Week London. Dr. Aaron Balick is a UKCP registered psychotherapist providing one-to-one psychotherapy, supervision, consultation and other related services located in Clerkenwell, London. Aaron will be speaking at the Social Media Week event 'Death, Digital Demise, Community & Digital Legacy' on the 25th September. If you would like to attend click here for a free ticket). 
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