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Is Virtual the New Reality?

Submitted by Michelle Boule on October 21, 2007 - 6:57pm

Wenzel Denver Post article

While in Denver for LITA Forum recently, I read an article in the Denver Post entitled “We are our friends, our friends are us: MySpace and its offspring have transformed our link' thinking.” I found this article interesting for two reasons.

First, the author, John Wenzel, stated that MySpace will make $1 billion in ad revenue this year. One billion dollars. I had no idea, but I am not surprised. With all of the money we spend on things everyday, why wouldn't MySpace's 200 million members be clicking on those ads?

The second reason, and the one that really caught my attention, was this line:


Why collect and monitor your friends virtually when you can do it for real?


Is virtual not real? What is unreal about it? Friends who are connected online are no less real and important because distance separates them. I subscribe to an RSS feed of all of my contacts' Flickr photos and those people are as real to me as my neighbor. I would argue that for many of us, the people we know online are more real than some of the people we see every day. My Flickr contacts know more about me than my neighbors do.

I am terrible about keeping up with mail (the old-fashioned kind) and phone calls. I am not bad about email, IM, or any of the other places I live online. My friends with whom I can interact with online receive more of my time and more quality time than my friends who live their lives offline, and our relationships are stronger for it. By contrast, I only talk to my best friend in Dallas once every couple of months on the phone. She does not email often, and she cannot IM during business hours, when I am most likely to be signed in. She is on MySpace, but I have no interest in that. We are not as close as we could be, if we had a common, virtual space.

So what makes something real? Can virtual be real?

Something is real when it affects your life. Something is real when it touches your heart and mind. Communication and sharing are real. Communicating ideas. Sharing feelings and experiences. We do this online everyday, and it's real. I wonder how long it will be before interactions online are regarded to be as real as those of the physical world.

Face-to-face communication will always stand out. It is difficult to send a hug, kiss, or hand squeeze over the Internet. We still need direct human contact. We are wired for it, but we should never underestimate the strength of the online ties that bind us. They can make you cry, laugh, sing, and yell as easily as the person in the room with you. Some of my closest friends I see more online than in person. The times I do see them in person are rare, sweet, and cherished.

All aspects of our life are real, even if they are virtual.


Comments (5)

Oh how your post is true and

Oh how your post is true and makes me shudder. I'm reading a book right now-- He, She and It. Piercy is the author's last name. Anyway her world she creates has antcedents in Huxley's Brave New World. Anyway, Piercy is predicting that people will have 'jacks' so they can plug into the net. That the things in the net are more real than the physical world. And yes they get their physical needs met with something called 'stimmies'. These are programs that tend to be more intense than the normal, physical world of the same activity. As some people have acknowledge that sci-fi authors are very good at predicting what is to come. This whole concept of being plugged in and socializing through these computer interfaces scare me. When I see people wearing their BlueTooth technology I hear in my head, 'Resistance is futile.' I have friends who ask for rides by emailing me. These of course have learned that I am not plugged in. Use a phone; they work. I spend my day at work in front of a computer. I don't want to come home in the evening and be in front of a computer. I have small children that I want to enjoy while they want to enjoy me. Teen years are closing in fast and I've got to make the most of the time we have. I am not afraid of computers. I'm just afraid that the world is loosing it's ability to relate to one another on a face to face level.

Thank you for this. As a

Thank you for this. As a person who grew up in the era of letters and cards and still holds these as the ideal. but who also values the modern ways of connecting, I completely agree with your thought. It's all about connection. As Tom Rush sang in 'Starlight': 'And we are dying in the street,/ Crying for connection.' The format's not the important thing here. The medium may have been the message, in many ways, but at heart it's all about connection, no matter how it's done. Let's embrace all the ways available to us.

We already live in the

We already live in the ultimate virtual world: it's called our mind. There is nothing more virtual and immersive than our own minds and the thoughts which animate vast worlds therein. When I read a novel I construct a rich virtual world in my mind to enhance the meaning of what I read. Reading wouldn't be much fun without our personal virtual world: that world we have always called our imagination.

Good grief, I hope virtual

Good grief, I hope virtual is not reality! It concerns me that some people are too into the virtual world and consequently the 'real world' is passing them by...

Thank you for this. As a

Thank you for this. As a person who grew up in the era of letters and cards and still holds these as the ideal. but who also values the modern ways of connecting, I completely agree with your thought. It's all about connection. As Tom Rush sang in 'Starlight': 'And we are dying in the street,/ Crying for connection.' The format's not the important thing here. The medium may have been the message, in many ways, but at heart it's all about connection, no matter how it's done. Let's embrace all the ways available to us.