I see this comparison a lot. The separation between "real life" and the life you might have on the internet. And it always makes me think, why does this comparison exist?
The internet has been around since the 1970's and it's been shaping our existence since it was introduced into our households, work places and, more recently, our pockets. We use it to communicate, to record and to understand - some of the fundemental actions that separate us as a species from the rest of the animal kingdom. It's become an important part of human existence and our generation will undoubtedly go down in the history books as being prolific internet users; history books which I am sure will also be available online.
The point I am trying to make here, is when did we decide that using technology to communicate, record and understand wasn't real life? When we talk on the phone we consider this real life. When we watch a documentary, we know that David Attenborough is a real man, captured talking in real time. When we listen to the radio, these are the voices of real people. Why are on-line actions seen as less real?
I could go even further back, I could talk about other ways to communicate - the telegram, the letter - these were methods of communication that were also considered real, although the communication didn't actually take place in real time. In this way, the internet is in-fact a more immediate method of communication, with a much faster response rate. Surely the fact you can send a tweet and receive a response in the same minute, is pretty real?
One of the few reasons I can think of, why the internet is separate from "real life" is the fact that we sit behind screens in order to be online which, when compared to speaking face to face with another human being, and being able to watch their facial expressions and body language to boot, doesn't seem very effective. It's not the most direct way to understand someone.
But humans have been using indirect methods to communicate and record since the beginning of time. Cave paintings are an example of this. Books, photography, art, film - these are all methods we've used and are using to communicate a story or a feeling without having direct contact with another human being in real time. We are complex beings, and need these indirect methods to express ourselves. After all, not everything can be conveyed with the spoken word. Perhaps the internet is an extension of this, and who's to say that our actions online are any less important than the brush strokes of a painting, or the words in a poem.
Perhaps then, the internet isn't considered "real life" because it isn't tangible. It's not something you can hang on your wall, or stick in your photo album, or store in your cupboard. How many of us actually know how the internet works, or what it's made of? How can something we can't touch or keep be "real life"?
But consider this. My blog is here. It's raising a point, it's communicating with you, it's sparking a thought process in your mind - just as a "real life" conversation with someone would do. How is speaking directly to another person, any more tangible than speaking through the internet? Aside from being able to reach out and touch someone's face as you speak to them (which might be a whole lot more creepy than using the internet!) you can't get a physical hold on a conversation, any more than you can whilst on Facebook chat.
Real life conversations are made up of sound waves, virtual conversations are made up of data. Is there really such a difference, when the source powering both is the human brain?
To conclude, I say we stop hiding behind the idea of an online and offline life. You life is your life, and whether your actions are online or offline, they're real, you made them happen. Once you stop using the excuse that the internet isn't "real life", you see it's importance in the modern world, and you become more aware of your actions whilst using it. Perhaps this is a solution to trolling and cyber-bullying. Perhaps once we understand this we can move forward in this digital age.
Either way, I'm proud to be an internet user, and consider it an important part of my "real" life.