In Real Life

This is a blog post. You read it in “cyberspace”. You may respond, you may not. Either way, it stays online. Unless you choose to hit Print – which is not recommended, for environmental reasons. Does the digital character of this interaction make it less “real” than if you were taking a walk in the park with me? Apparently, many people would think so.

Again and again you hear the thought voiced that meetings online, friendships in social networks, and digitally mediated discussions are just a shadow of the “real world”. Even the common expression IRL (In Real Life), builds on this assumption. Digital media can be good, but they can never replace the “real thing”.

Now I do believe there is a “real thing”, but I don’t believe that the digital world, the Internet, is fake, and but a poor replication of the world as it should be. But here’s the thing: all communication is mediated. Whether it is language, body language, telephone, email, or social networks, there is always something “in between” two minds interacting. Communication is indeed possible, but always mediated.

People are networking through social media. It’s not a game. This is real life. If you’re like me, most of your interactions take place online, and they’re not less real for this fact.

I post this during an Internet Evangelism seminar in England, focusing exactly on helping people to interact with their (digital) network and share the gospel with their friends in non-obtrusive, digitally mediated ways. There is potential in this, but apparently some mind-sets differ here.

Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

One thought on “In Real Life”

  1. I agree completely – online interactions aren’t necessarily less “real”, whatever that may mean, however they are different. Like it or not, most people seem to behave slightly different online than they would in person, and there’s a whole spectrum of communication that doesn’t translate well into typical online interactions.

    There’s definitely a generational aspect to this. Younger people who are growing up with this kind of interaction aren’t going to have the same “it’s not real” doubts – they will just accept it for what it is.

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