By Doni Joszef
The year is 1885.
A Viennese neurologist by the name of Sigmund Freud just published his first medical book, Uber Coca, an emphatic praise of a seemingly magical substance: cocaine. Freud believed it was an absolute wonder drug, a cure for addiction, a cure for neurosis, a cure for life and its plethora of problems.
But the test of time told a different tale.
One of Freud’s patients nearly died from the supposed wonder drug, and Freud himself began to struggle with the very powder he’d once endorsed profusely. As it turned out, cocaine didn’t cure his patients’ addictions, it merely substituted one compulsion for another. Freud’s fondness for blow proved an epic “Freudian slip,” causing far more problems than it once promised to cure.
Fast-forward to 1964.
Harvard psychologist-turned-hippy-hero Timothy Leary spearheads the so-called psychedelic revolution. Leary and his colorful crew of cohorts believe they’ve discovered the key to unlocking the doors of perception and the chambers of consciousness. The key came in the form of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms. These mind-expanding chemicals would soon cure psychosis, reform criminals, and save the fate of humanity. Peace and harmony were on the horizon. Far out, indeed.
In Leary’s own words:
“I learned more about my brain and its possibilities, and more about psychology, in the five hours after taking these mushrooms, than in my preceding 15 years of studying and researching psychology.”
Another wonder drug—or so it seemed in 1964.
But, again, time told a different tale.
LSD eventually caused more psychosis than it ever cured.
Leary and his strange slew of sidekicks gradually lost themselves and their credibility in the rapture of what they believed to be a sure solution to life’s most challenging problems. Good trips were followed by bad trips, and liberated minds soon took the sanity of their own hosts hostage.
Fast-forward to 2013.
Social media and the Internet are rapidly sweeping through our lives like a tidal wave through a helpless village. Screens of all shapes and sizes have reshaped the way we interact (or don’t).
The apparent convenience of constant contact and the supposed freedoms of speech and expression resonate with an undertone of excitement and fervor. Life and its opportunities seem limitless, at last.
But the test of time remains to tell its own tale.
Families may now be able to spend more physical time together, but seem to be spending an equal and opposite amount of emotional time apart. Information may now come at the click of a button, but its overwhelming speed and scope seem to paralyze us more than they empower us.
Like many wonder drugs which promise perpetual peace and everlasting ease, the Internet comes with unforeseen side effects. And those of us (which is most of us) who are riding this wave are beginning to feel the ferocious force of its invisible undertow.
Cocaine was not what Freud thought.
LSD was not what Leary thought.
And the Internet is not what we thought. v
Doni Joszef, LMSW, works in private practice with adolescents and young adults in Lawrence. He blogs at DeficitOfAttention.com and is pursuing a Ph.D. in media psychology. For more information, call 516-316-2247 or visit DoniJoszef.Com.