Reality (and the things in it)

(Ranty) thought-spill

August 2, 2015

Let’s talk about real life. Because I’m kind of tired of how people use the term “real life”.

No, not like that. Not in the sense that I want to live in a virtual world or commit suicide or something like that. No, I’m talking about the fact that real life is that thing you can not live in. I’m tired of the fact that people can not “have a life”, that people can not be in the “real world.”

And that all sounds really stupid when I phrase it like that, doesn’t it? But let me phrase it another way. Why are you reading this on a computer? Why are you not outside in the world, playing football or listening to the birds or talking with your friends? Why are you reading pixels on a screen? Why are you not experiencing real life? Why have you decided to dedicate your time to something unreal, and virtual? What’s going on here? Why would you possibly do that?


Ok, see, now I hope you get the kind of argument I’m tired of. I’m tired of the split between the “real” world (IRL, Get a life, go outside etc) and the “virtual world” (computers, the internet, screens). Because it’s stupid. Because it assumes that what happens on the internet isn’t real. Because it assumes that what happens on a screen isn’t real. And that’ll very quickly devolve into a reality debate that I want to avoid, so let me just say this instead: What makes it not real? The fact that it’s pixels? Your eyes don’t care, your brain processes it all the same. The fact that it isn’t physical? It is (electronics are a physical phenomenon. I know that's not what you mean and I don't care). The fact that it’s not “face-to-face”? Letters aren’t either. But no one sends those anymore, so you might have forgotten.
Look, okay. Here’s what I’m trying to say: There is no split between the real world and the internet. There is no “virtual you” and a “real you”. There is no “virtual reality” and “real reality” (wow, what a term, right?). There is no boundary you cross when you turn on a computer and “exit into another world”.

There is only “Reality”. There is only the world. And what we experience in it.

There is no part of what happens on a screen that we can decoct and dissolve into “un-reality” or “it didn’t happen” or “that’s not real.” There’s no part of what we’re doing online or on a computer that we can ignore as much as we can’t ignore what we’re doing anywhere else. The only difference is that you can act like there is, because of anonymity (but that’s a separate debate—an interesting one indeed, but separate).

And this mental split we still have causes a wealth of problems. It makes us think our words online doesn’t matter (harassment, comments, internet “debates”, trolling). It makes us think that people are anti-social because they are staring at a computer screen (which isn’t necessarily the case—that’s another problem with screens, they’re ambiguous and difficult to process for someone else (only you get what’s happening on your screen at all times)). It makes us forget the importance of being able to connect and it makes us forget the many things that aren’t bad on the internet. It makes us dismiss problems and upscale conflicts. It makes us think that the internet isn’t dangerous. It makes us think the internet isn’t helpful.

We assume that something that isn’t real won’t cause real consequences. We assume that the internet is a plaything, a toy and a tool. We forget that these things are all also real and have consequences. We forget that the world is never-endingly strange and weird and real. And so is everything in it.


Sorry that it's all a bit ranty. I really don't like that type of thing, normally, but it's just... sort of fell out of me like that. I guess it is a topic that warrants some frustration, so I think it's alright. But yeah, I would normally try to be a little more positive about things.

But otherwise, this is something I've been thinking about for a while and something that still annoys me about how we talk about the internet. I hope this explains at least partly why.