I find myself in the middle of yet another debate about the internet versus Real Life. Of course the internet is real life; it’s ridiculous to me that anyone could ever think otherwise. Do we suddenly turn into imaginary people once we start typing on a keyboard? I think not.
The internet is a tool, a school, and a new-age coffee shop. It’s a bookstore, a singles bar, and a movie theater. It’s an advertiser’s best friend. The internet is many, many things, but “imaginary” is not one of them.
I think some people have gotten hung up on the term “virtual.” Here’s a note from dictionary.com:
Usage Note: When virtual was first introduced in the computational sense, it applied to things simulated by the computer, like virtual memory—that is, memory that is not actually built into the processor. Over time, though, the adjective has been applied to things that really exist and are created or carried on by means of computers. Virtual conversations are conversations that take place over computer networks, and virtual communities are genuine social groups that assemble around the use of e-mail, webpages, and other networked resources. · The adjectives virtual and digital and the prefixes e- and cyber- are all used in various ways to denote things, activities, and organizations that are realized or carried out chiefly in an electronic medium…
I won’t bore you with the rest.
My point is, virtual doesn’t have to mean “does not exist” anymore.
I’ve heard people justify their arguments that the internet world is not real life by claiming that people can “hide” behind a computer and become an imaginary personality. That’s true. Someone could also call you up on the telephone, claim to be your banking contact, and ask you to verify your social security number. Then they could hang up and steal your identity. That’s not imaginary. Do you blame the telephone for that? Do you call the phone system an evil playground for mass-murderers and stalkers?
The phone is a tool, just as the internet is a tool. Evil people are going to use both of them. Evil people exist everywhere, even in your neighborhood.
And as far as the imaginary personality goes, in harmless situations – don’t we do that in person regularly? Every day when we wake up, we decide at some level who we are going to be. When I go to work, I wear working clothes and I fix my hair and makeup according to that role. The outfit I choose for a hot date on Friday night is going to be entirely different. I will look different. I will act different.
Internet avatars and “about me” sections are merely exaggerated forms of self-expression and identity management.
Anyway… I sure hope the internet is real. I pay good money every month to have access to it, and I’d be lost without it.
The evil internet and the telephone – can’t leave home without ’em.