VINEY LUGANI IS A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, NEUROLINGUIST, INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION TRAINER AS WELL AS OCCUPATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST. HIS FOCUS IS ON COMMUNICATION IN HEALTH AND BUSINESS.
Viney, has digitalisation changed the mental health of society?
To start with, to dispel a fear: our brain is definitely light years ahead of artificial intelligence. Alone because of our emotions and the fact that we can feel them and deal with them. But one thing is also clear: computers or AI are faster at finding and structuring data than the human brain. In particular as regards the processing of the data volumes.
And these data volumes, which are created by digitization, have a considerable influence on the information processing in our brain. Such information input, to which we are exposed through the Internet today, can have a considerable negative impact on our mental as well as physical health. Especially since decisions are not necessarily made better by such a flood of information, but rather more difficult. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish which information corresponds to an objectively comprehensible reality and which is perhaps interpreted more subjectively.
Why is the flood of information of our days is a challenge for people?
Our brain not only processes data analytically, but also emotionally. At a certain point, too much input at once triggers what is known as “emotional overload” and thus stress.
The mere functioning and having to process immense amounts of data in a short time creates incredible stress, which accumulates irretrievably and finally leads to human collapse. But at what point is too much? I mean, the line’s long gone.
What stresses modern man? Where is the greatest need for action?
I mean, stress is fed by various sources, such as environmental stress, nutritional stress; communication stress and information stress generated by the large amount of data.
I see the greatest need for action in the schools and with the families. There should be something like family lessons where the family members learn together how to use the internet and social media. In this way, the whole family can get to know a sensitive and informed approach to fake news.
What basic questions should be discussed in such a family class?
The demarcation line should be learned – where the dangers lurk on the Internet and where it is fun, useful, enjoyable and is extremely informative and helpful for obtaining information.
The young generation is very affinity to media – do you see generative differences in dealing with the new media?
Yes, the good news is that the coming new Generation Z – born 1995-2005 – already now, out of self-protection, we see a different way of dealing with the Internet than the Generation Y -1980-1990 – before that.
You give social media courses – Who attends these courses?
These workshops are the result of an interpersonal exchange or need. The target group are retailers who had not yet dared to enter the market.
What has changed in human communication?
Accessibility via different messenger systems in a 1 to 1 communication. The visual contact within these systems is an additional factor. And this across national borders and continents, whether it is contact with relatives or with completely new friends.
What are the special challenges of modern communication?
Here too, society is still in the process of learning to filter issues and develop a way of dealing with them. Not always being accessible and at the same time being able to take advantage of the comfortable time saving through faster information processing without losing your footing and ground under your feet.
How do you explain Hate Speech on the net?
Hate Speech has been around before. Now it can be found on digital platforms on the Internet. Here it is all the more dangerous, since the agitators can hide behind a digital mask for the time being.
What kind of people are hidden behind these “digital masks”?
The emergence of such a thing lies in a feeling of inferiority, generated by an unfortunate socialization, characterized by a politically generated system with distorted values of a society whose basic humanitarian values are now more than ever under threat.
So behind a hateful commentator is actually a thoroughly fearful person?
Yes – fear of losing the remaining control over one’s own life. Society and politics have to be very careful at the moment. Fortunately, society as a whole, as well as many individuals, has its own conscience and collective memory of human values.
What advantages does the networked world have for you?
Online peace movements and other demos for the maintenance and enforcement of humanist values are emerging. Hate must not be allowed to develop in the first place. We have had this many times in the history of mankind and not only ended badly each time, but also needed a long time to be socially processed.
How do you counter hate on the net? What’s your advice?
The best way to eliminate hatred is through education and understanding. I tell my students one thing about it: If you encounter Hate Speech on the net, please report it! With Facebook, for example, this is very simple and also anonymous.
Do you think that digital addiction is a new widespread disease?
Yes and no! For the time being, it is not an addiction, since the development of technologies in a society has always required a change in human behaviour. An addiction or other psychological disorders only arise when the medium, and here I am specifically talking about the Internet – e.g. emails, surfing and playing behaviour – is so much in focus that there are no other forms of human encounters or even interactions.
Addictions and mental disorders have also existed before. The Internet as a tool for execution has now been added.
You are of Indian descent, lived in London before you grew up in Berlin with three different cultural influences. How do you assess the chances of a peaceful multicultural society in Germany?
This has become a science in its own right in the psycho-sociological field.
It is important to address the obstacles such as “learning to understand” different cultural values. Only if we can expand the understanding of values on all sides will things really get better. And this can only be done by getting to know the different values of the cultures that come together. We do not have to merge with all the values of all cultures. This would also overtax society, which is already the case in some cases.
One answer would be to create spaces for meeting and learning. There, immigrants could be given the opportunity to get to know our values, especially by learning the German language, and to learn how to deal with free thinking, for example.
What is integration mainly about?
Here I am concerned above all with tolerance, for example in religious matters. India, for example, is a country where secularism is written and lived in capital letters. Other countries wage wars in the name of religion. So-called religious disputes of different orientations are always instrumentalized by politics. This method, and with it leading and manipulating masses, has not changed worldwide. And Hate Speech is a method that is used today to get the mob to revolt.
What possibilities do we have for a peaceful coexistence?
A peaceful mutual learning and living of values and an introduction of these values for immigrants. That they understand that they can only become a part of this society if they can share the values of the society they live in and with.
Does digitisation promote a multicultural society?
This happens in part where corresponding programs are created. Where digitisation as an instrument for transporting transparent and learnable information helps. Digitisation brings together different worlds and their contents. It is perfect for learning and understanding. There are some trends, the consequences of which are not really clear yet. But the benefits of this are often glossed over.
What are the trends?
For one thing, this is the “algorithmization”. Each digital behaviour is packed into an algorithm and processed. Mainly for consumer research. But do we really need more consumption? Don’t we have enough to do with consumption already? From my point of view we already have more consumption than we can mentally cope with.
The head cinema, i.e. the desire for future and at the same time the fastest possible fulfilment of happiness through consumption, dominates us much more than the reality in the here and now. And this is exactly what the consumer researchers want to make use of with the algorithms. But the calculation will not work out this way: The human brain is already defending itself by either refusing or going crazy. Sometimes both.
A further trend will be that future generations will want to devote themselves more to self-realization. The Internet has now also become a huge library where everyone can find and use something for their further education and self-realization.
How do you see the future?
I am a visionary – the future can be shaped. In the microcosm first, because with it the macrocosm moves. And when it moves, the small parts of the microcosm move again.
Influencing the microcosm – what do you mean?
For example with this interview. Other people will read this. I hope, like you, that this will give us food for thought.