What is reality? I do not want to get into any philosophical or existential discussion about the nature of reality. As you all know a large percentage of the youth in this country and world are now addicts to the virtual world and more specifically the social networks. At some point I thought well this is going to be the end of our social lives as human beings. I remember one day we were supposed to be hanging out in campus but at some point everyone had their phone in their hands, Facebook, twitter you name it. I remember thinking to myself if we are like this and we got our phones mostly after high school, what is going to happen the future generation.
Kids now get internet browsing phones when as young as nine years. Are these boys going to know how to talk to a girl outside Facebook? Will they be able to take them out on a coffee date, will they even know the common courtesies involved in dating and well…in everyday life? There’s a fear that kids are learning more than they should be for their ages thanks to the internet age. This fear is justified because with the internet comes with unmonitored freedom, while it’s a good free source of knowledge, the internet has no guardian to keep the pedos and the child molesters out, with the typing of a link a kid can access all the pornography in this line. This verse from my favorite rapper Lupe Fiasco captures this dilemma beautifully. “Now imagine a group of little girls nine through twelve, on the internet watching videos listenin’ to songs by themselves, it doesn’t really matter if they have parental clearance, they understand the internet better than they parents.”
I have come to change my view and not simply because I can now consider myself also hooked to the virtual world. I tried to stay for a week without technology but I only lasted two hours. Today I was watching an anime (Japanese cartoon for the anti geeks) called Serial experiments Lain. It’s basically about how thin the line between reality and the virtual world really is. The anime pushes this further by suggesting that in fact there might be no difference between the real world and the virtual one. The two worlds get blurred and interchangeable with devastating consequences. Luckily we have not reached there but who knows with this ever growing technology what tomorrow has in store for us. Today I and the rest of the frequent visitors of social networks have more virtual friends than they do in ‘real life’. But I’m I justified to even draw this distinction? What is reality anyway? Is it not simply whatever our brains can conjure and convince us that that is how the world is? When we are having a nightmare and we wake up, palpitating and sweating profusely, for all intents and purposes was the dream not real enough to us? When we get absorbed in a good book, when we cry when we watch a sad scene in a movie, is this less real than everything else we experience in our day to day lives?
I was previously arguing that with the social networks comes the beginning of the end of social lives but my position is actually the opposite now. With the coming of all this technology and social networks then we are simply ushering in a new reality. The same way some people have argued that the end of the Christian world and the second coming as simply the mark of the coming of the new age of Pisces but that is a story for another day. More than ninety percent of my friends now come from interactions in the virtual world. Like the cartoon I was watching today it is becoming harder and harder to draw the line between the real and the virtual world. And just like in the cartoon my real world and the virtual world are starting to increasingly merge. Lovers, friends, enemies have been forged in this virtual world, others developing into real life friends others remaining in the interwebz. Some people could argue that it’s healthier to have more real life friends but this argument has not legs to stand on, real life friendships also go through the same phases virtual ones do, they too are not everlasting or perfect. And what are people? Aren’t they just the sum total of what they communicate to us and what we interpret about them? Bodies are nothing more than machines that allow for this interface, computers can now provide all that is required to interface with each other. We do not require physical bodies to communicate with each other, we can still make each other laugh, cry and even angry well from behind our keyboards, while the anonymity has brought with it’s a certain stain of callousness and the dark side of people, it has also allowed us to explore different personalities, to create how we want to appear and what we wish to communicate to the different faceless virtual interfaces we interact with on these social networks.
So while some people argue that social networks are the death of our social lives, we can tell them this is simply the birth of a new reality, a new world , more flexible, more exciting and easier to construct without all the burdens that arise in the real world. So a toast to the new matrix in which we are all pioneers of, we are free to shape it however we want it, the limit only lie with our imagination and creativity. With the every end comes a new beginning after all.