Online Connectivity – is it good for you? A talk @ The Dragon Cafe

I’ve been having a great time running a series of events at The Dragon Cafe in South London this month. There is a special atmosphere at this mental health cafe; one of fun and acceptance. There are a lot of recent and current mental health service users who visit the space, but somehow that doesn’t define it. Everyone is just there for a good laugh and some good conversation.

On the 2nd February 2015 we ran an event titled Online Connectivity  – is it good for you? This was an opportunity for me to open up some of the ideas behind the Group Therapy exhibition that I have curated with a different audience.

First up our panel discussion brought together a group of experts with differing opinions about the relationship between mental health and technology.

Mark Brown, a mental health innovator who founded Doc Ready app and the A Day in the Life project, advocated for social media’s ability to give those who experience mental health difficulties a platform to collaborate and participate. You can find the text of his talk here.

Seaneen Molloy, mental health blogger and writer offered some personal insight into her experiences of blogging about her own mental health and how sharing intimate details of her illness with a public audience shaped her online identity. See Seaneen’s blog here.

Bob Harris, a psychotherapist who occasionally uses Skype in his practice sparked debate about the difference between ‘real’ experience and images, and suggested that images do not have the same capacity to spark empathy as real one-on-one iteration.

Bob Harris @ Dragon Cafe
Bob Harris @ Dragon Cafe

After a short break we heard from Katriona Beales, one of the artists who is participating in Group Therapy. Katriona shared some of her fascinating research about internet addiction, a diagnosis which is used widely in Asia but is yet to become an official disorder in the UK. She also showed some preview images of her FACT commission.

Katriona Beales @ Dragon Cafe
Katriona Beales @ Dragon Cafe

Opinions were certainly divided about the mental health benefits of connecting online, but a lot of the important discussion seemed to centre on whether we can have the same kind of empathy with a digital image as we can via face-to-face contact.

Thank you thank you thank you to all four of the wonderful speakers.

Featured image: Mark Brown

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