Published: 06th March 2021
Women's Day: With no inhibitions, cyberspace lets you reveal your primal desires, says cyber Psychologist Nirali Bhatia
Nirali might be a Cyber Psychologist now but she started off as a Commerce student and she has dabbled in the IT world as well which made it easier for her to take up the profession
Cyberspace has grown so much over the past few decades that it has now become a society of its own that co-exists with the pre-existing societal structure that we had. And like any good thing, the internet too comes with its own set of cons. Mental health issues related to the usage of the internet has also increased over the years. Nirali Bhatia from Mumbai has taken up a rather unconventional career. A Cyber Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Nirali's work and research were concentrated on anxiety and stress caused by prolonged usage of the internet and how it has even altered one's identity.
Nirali might be a Cyber Psychologist now but she started off as a Commerce student and she has dabbled in the IT world as well, which made it easier for her to take up the profession. "When I passed my Class 10 boards with 77 per cent, my family did not want me to pursue Psychology. After completing my MCom in Organisational Behaviour, I gradually shifted to animation and then webpage design. Soon I was working as a developer. We were the few who had the opportunity of accessing the internet when it was still a dial-up connection. I started working as an online behaviour analyst soon," said Nirali, who went on to complete her second post graduation in Counselling Psychology from the School of Social Sciences (SOSS), Indira Gandhi Open National University, much later in 2016-17.
During her research which was a specialisation on how teens are reacting to internet usage, she found that boys showed more aggressive traits but are more often not able to express what they are feeling while girls were not apprehensive of sharing what they felt. "Boys were found to be more into gaming and YouTube while the girls were using social media apps, like Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Most of the time we do not understand what changes the internet is causing in us and during this study, we found that while the girls were clear about how they were feeling in a particular situation — be it jealousy, anger, or depression — boys often were not clear what they were feeling," she said.
In her other research area which deals with effect of internet on identity, it is disturbing and fascinating at the same time how much the internet changes a person's behavior when they are online. "I have seen this when I was appointed the psychologist for MTV Troll Police, a reality show, as well. The internet has not fixed rules about how to behave, the other person is not infront of you — all these factors add up to you revealing your primal instincts and desires," she added.
How is Cyberpsychology different from regular psychology?
Her exposure in the IT industry has given her an edge which helps her assists her clients in their journey better, said Nirali. "Even though the issue originates from the internet, the final issue is anxiety and depression, which does not need cyber knowledge to treat. But I have an advantage when it comes to pinpointing the source. It's all about changing your positive belief system which is now being influenced by your technology use," said Niral, whose early clients were business houses or corporates who have fallen victim to malware attacks or fraud. These were not very emotional in nature but at the end of the day who was on the other end was a human and understanding their psyche was important," she said
Where can you study Cyberpsychology?
Cyberpsychology as a stream is still not popular. Nirali said that not only were there no courses that let you specialise on the subject, but a proper formal course was only registered in 2020. "That too we only have the Gujarat Behavioural Sciences University which is offering an MSc in Cyberpsychology from November 2020. We have been trained in general psychology to help clients and the therapy method that I use the most is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). When it comes to implementation — for corporate clients it was more of taking him through the journey from hopelessness to hope. Now, when I am dealing with teenage clients who have bullying-related issues, it is more emotional in nature. The therapeutic work has increased a lot. The technical part is to protect them," she added.