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psychological e-volunteering among russian speakers

Olga Bermant-Polyakova PhD
An ethical message is delivered to society, into
the mind and into daily life and behavior, by
traditional educational and legal ways. This
task may be realized by a novel way of evolunteering.
An online volunteer is a volunteer who
completes tasks, in whole or in part, via
Internet. Currently there is no organization
tracking the best practices in e-volunteering,
amount of people engaged in online
volunteering or how many organizations
involve online volunteers.
Ethical Attitudes
As we have written in our papers [1,2],
communication in ru_psiholog is built
according to the rules of psychotherapeutic
encounter group. Anonymous participation
is allowed both for topic starters and for
commentators [6,7]. E-therapy is an area,
that is actively investigated accordingly to
high standards of evidence based practice
in psychology [4].
Model of Hippocrates (460 B.C. – between 377-356 B.C.), the
principle “first, do not harm”, - puts in the forefront cautiousness
and scientific verification of the help giver‟s acts, requires the
awareness about the fact that any drug may be a poison, but any
poison may be a drug.
We report about setting, psychotherapeutic
effects, management issues, ethical dilemmas
in our work, based on seven years practice of
co-directing the community “Be Your Own
Shrink” on Live Journal.
Online communities depend upon the
commitment and voluntary participation of
their members [3,5]. Community design
influences how people become attached to
the community and whether they are willing
to expend effort on its behalf [8].
Whereas community is divided to readers
and writers, we have analyzed active
participation only. Duration of co-working in
community ru_psiholog is shown in figure 1.
Thousands of Russian speakers from 65
countries engage in collaborative work online
that provides psychological support and
psyho-educational help nonstop.
How Long Are You Reading the Community,
Whatever Daily or Sometimes?
A few weeks
About several month About half-year
Model of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the principle of utility, basically means paternalism, because the help giver takes on
himself the full responsibility for the life of the one asking for help
and because gives to himself the right to decide, would his actions
bring to others happiness or suffering.
Bioethics by Van Rensselaer Potter (1911-2001), the principle of
respect for human rights and personal dignity, - postulates that
the one who asks for help, accepts responsibility for his own life, a
help giver accepts demanding to respect decisions of the person,
to whom his help is given, and at the same time, provides an
opportunity to informed consent.
Several years
Many years
About year
From the beginning
Figure 1
We have about 400 posts and 2,8 million
watches of post‟s discussions per month.
Model of Paracelsus (1493-1541), the principle of doing for good, based on analogy between macrocosm (physical universe) and
microcosm (human), which implies the necessity to check the
actions of the help giver with higher moral concepts of good and
evil, and keeps the belief that helper is the transmitter of the God‟s
power only.
The most discussed topics in psychological evolunteering are dealing with „conflicting
loyalties‟ situation. We find that the process of
decision making in such case increases within
the person the contradictions between different
internalized ethical attitudes. Ambitendency
leads to emotional discomfort, which could be
worked through.
An archive of transcripts counts 20,000+
group discussions, subdivided into 100
During the last twelve years the amount of
participants has grown significally, and now
there are 30,000 Live Journal users, 120,000
participants from other social networks, more
than one million comments on the site.
We have also faced the phenomena of
polyphony of ethical attitudes which are
brought into e-volunteering. For more than
twenty five centuries European culture has
formed the number of rules and principles, so
today four positions on this matter co-exist in
the social-cultural reality. Their prototypes
have come from medicine and may be viewed
in historical sequence as follows:
Who Are Community Maintainers?
Group dynamics ravels are never-ending
story online. Looking through psychological
glasses, within the community a group of
trolling people, a work group and a basic
assumptions groups (according to Wilfred
Bion, 1970) of dependency, fight-flight and
pairing are involved in the complex
interplay. Maintainers put group dynamics
into discussion in Processing post weekly.
Krasnoshtein Hanan, M.Sc.
Literature Cited
1. Bermant-Polyakova O.V. (2014) Psychodiagnostics and existence. – Concept. 2014. Modern
science researches. Issue 2. ART 54461. – URL:
2. Bermant-Polyakova O.V., Krasnoshtein E.A. (2011) Group Psychotherapy Online:
Phenomena, Dynamics, Group Process Management // Psychotherapy, 5 (101): 73-78.
3. Donath J. S. (1998) Identity and deception in the virtual community // Kollok, P. and Smith, M.
(eds) Communities in cyberspace. London: Routledge.
4. Hedman E., El Alaoui S., Lindefors N., Andersson E., Ruck C., Ghaderi A., Kaldo V., Lekander
M., Andersson G., Ljotsson B. (2014) Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of Internetvs. group-based cognitive behavior therapy for social anxiety disorder: 4-year follow-up of a
randomized trial // Behaviour Research and Therapy, 59:20-9.
Bermant-Polyakova Olga, Ph.D.
5. Li X. (2011) Factors influencing the willingness to contribute information to online
communities // New Media Society, 13:279. – URL:
6. Osman A., Wardle A., Caesar R. (2012) Online professionalism and Facebook- falling
through the generation gap // Medical Teacher, 34 (8): e548-56.
7. Postmes T., Brunsting S. (2002) Collective action in the age of the Internet: Mass
communication and online mobilization // Social Science Computer Review, 20: 290-301.
8. Ren Y., Kraut R., Kiesler S. (2007) Applying common identity and bond theory to design of
online communities // Organization Studies, 28:377. – URL:
Disclosure No competing financial interests exist.
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