Presenter: Karen Eberwein, Psy.D
October, 17, 2015
Lenore Pomerance interviews Karen Eberwein
Lenore: Given our technology theme, what made you think of the “Square?”
Karen: I really wanted to find a movie that depicts technology in a neutral to positive way instead of one that portrays social media as having a detrimental impact on an individual, group, or society. I had a few movies in mind and after I watched The Square, it felt like a natural fit for me given my interests.
I am a therapist in private practice, but, also spend as much of my time consulting to organizations that have to make decisions about individuals who may be at risk for engaging in violence towards coworkers or could damage the workplace in some way. Because technology is so much a part of our everyday communication, whether it be in our work or personal life, understanding words, language use, and behavior related to emailing and social media has been crucial.
In my experience, I have found myself confronted with and attempting to understand individual’s and groups’ expressions of their truth, which might typically be considered forbidden or undesirable to talk about–especially, when the subjectivity involves more primitive thoughts and feelings towards authority in the workplace. As a result, I find myself drawn to and curious about how social media enables individuals and groups to have the freedom to give voice to their rights, needs, desires. This was definitely the case in Tahrir Square, as well as in the other Middle East countries involved in The Arab Spring. I wish the movie was more uplifting, but it is an honest examination of the power of group membership, authority, courage, suffering, religion and politics through the eyes of those who experienced it.
Lenore: Would the Arab Spring have happened the way it did without Social Media? And, was this a good thing?
Karen: Wow, I don’t know. I know we have MAGPS members who have been directly impacted by issues related to oppression and political unrest in their country of origin, and hope that they might be interested in attending this Cinema series, and sharing their experiences or opinions, if comfortable. I am not a expert on the Middle East, and I don’t want to present myself as someone who has a background or a strong interest in politics. I am interested in how groups use different forms of social media and email to communicate ideas, both conscious and unconscious. So, while I can’t speculate on how the events of The Arab Spring unfolded, it seems clear that social media gave people the ability to educate the world about injustices, conflicts, and achieve revolution. In the case of Egypt, when the State controlled the media and the flow of information, the use of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube enabled individuals to share their truth by bringing words and images of suffering into the World’s consciousness making headway to change.
Lenore: Terrorist and criminal organizations also use social media to build their base. What about that?
Karen: Terrorist and criminal organization do leverage the internet via forums, chat rooms, and other social media sites to promote their interests, recruit new members, probably conduct operations, and influence public perception to legitimize their goals. Even with the popularity of social media, these organizations continue to use more traditional forms of print media and broadcast news to influence public opinion. Technology is a tool that enables us to achieve an outcome whether it be building a community, communicating ideas, organizing an event; or, engaging in a more destructive act.
Lenore: How would you relate the movie to group therapy?
Karen: For me, watching and thinking about The Square, provides us with a painful, but first hand depiction of how concepts related to Large Group manifest in social systems. Tahrir Square, itself, is containing. It is a critical point of connection, facilitates unity, and serves as a space where individuals develop relationships and give voice to their suffering in constructive ways. Without giving too much away, one of my favorite quotes, which is said in reference to Tahrir Square is “…we are all equal, reflections of one another,” which reminds me of the power and importance of mirroring in our psychotherapy groups and society. The movie also allows us to witness a range of emotions Egyptians experienced and tragically what happens when a container is destroyed. Lastly, and perhaps more important than providing a starting point to think about and discuss social media or psychotherapy groups, The Square, provides us with an opportunity to examine how concepts related to poverty, indignities, and oppression manifest not only in countries in the Middle East, but also parallel events we have witnessed in subgroups in the US.
Lenore: Karen, thanks so much. I can’t wait to see the movie with you.