The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?


With many of us living a parallel life ‘online’, one wonders if this throbbing, invisible world is really virtual anymore?

I remember reading a chapter on ‘the Internet’ when I was in school, and quietly dismissing it thinking it was too ‘theoretic ’. I could not have been more wrong!!

Right from my cute 8-year-old neighbour in Chennai till 70-year-old retired school teacher aunty, almost every single person I know is alive and kicking in the Virtual world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world).

Facebook FeverFacebook, Twitter, Google wave (and many more!)… ‘being online’ is not merely a part of life, but a basic necessity for many! Facebook discussions, for example, are so real that I often find myself pondering the entire day about a single thought floating around somewhere in virtual space. Some people go so far as to claim their life has improved with being able to instantly gratify their need for friendship! We are so involved with the online world that it begins to affect our day-to-day life. We do things, go to places so we can tell the world we have done it. We argue, we strive desperately to show we are right, we eagerly seek approval.. and all this from a community that we do not ‘see’ but only ‘read’.

Media Mania (pic courtesy Hindustan times)

There is this nagging urge to make a strong online presence. It could start off with a completely useless discussion on New Year resolutions that you know will not see the light of day! Or RT-ing anything that Big B, Junior B, or Beti B say (or gurgle, as the case may be). Or even reading a controversial article and throwing barbs at the authors hiding behind a shield of anonymity.

One thing is certain – no matter what form our online participation takes, it is certainly assuming gigantic proportions. Statistics indicate that many Facebook users spend more time on Facebook than face-to-face with friends.

Basically, we do not live in one single world any more. There is this invisible, pulsating virtual world all around us, drawing us deeper and deeper each day.

I wouldn’t say it is a vice, though. Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of our virtual world:

  • Pretend to be friends with @SrBachchan and go ga-ga about Beti B’s name
  • Find love in chat-rooms (Sure, that makes a great story to tell your grandkids!)
  • Golu (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)

    Valiantly keep Indian culture alive. Especially all those lovely NRIs living in the ‘aasum You-Yes-Yay’ who post photos of exotic Golu and drool-worthy Paniyaram!

  • Say NO to dieting and exercise. I mean seriously! All you need is Photoshop. And tada!! You have a . Throw on a pair of dark glasses, Copy-Paste Santorini in the background, and notice how easy it is to get ‘liked’ without the Kolaveri of sweaty gymming.

    Instant makeover (Pic courtesy home-make-over dot info)
  • Keep a watch on the better-half! You wonder why his SMS reads ‘stuck in boring office party’, when he is simultaneously ‘tagged’ realtime with some hotties via ‘HTC Wild fire for FB’ 😉

Keep an eye on that teenage cousin who wears two-plaits and goes to a girls-school, and quietly tip off her mom when some weirdo with spikey hair comments ‘Dat Pic Lukng Hawt’. Whatever, dude!
Find out what your retired dad is upto these days (even if you don’t really want to). Dirty Picture at xyz Cinema with abc’. Gulp! Shouldn’t Zuckerberg think of introducing an upper age limit on FB users?

  • Free campaigning for events and functions. All you need is an IIT/IIM based story, and Voila! you are the next Chetan Bhagat, and FB is under a deluge of your ‘book launch’
  • Forge great friendships and even greater enemies!
  • And best of all, you get all this for FREE!

All the same, we suddenly have many lurking dangers!

  • Trading Facebook for Treadmill. Er.. not a great idea, really!
  • At the risk of an anti-climax, most of those porn videos that you think are ‘Chi..chi!’ and then click when nobody is watching, are actually spam and could contain viruses. What is worse, the bleddy link does not even play a video afterall!!
  • Attack by virtual trolls. There seem to be an increasing level of aggression and barbed attacks by anonymous trolls who trade subjectivity for offensiveness. Actually, getting to watch a fight for free should go under ‘merits’ of social media, but then, it isn’t always pleasant, is it?
  • Identity theft – This is more common than we think. When I saw my mum receiving FB notifications, I wondered how a lady who refused point-blank to turn on a computer, suddenly got so tech-savvy. Duh! Someone had stolen her ID!
  • Mc Merry!!! (Pic courtesy www dot overgroundonline dot com)

    There is just no privacy! You can’t lie to your organization or school. Like, for example, you cannot bunk school and go to Inox or McDonalds, because somebody is always watching.

  • And what is worse… those annoying/boring/nevertheless curious folks you desperately try to avoid in real life, keep such close watch on you, its like having a personal Bodyguard
  • And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’.

Evidently, all these merits and demerits of the virtual world are quite tangible. Increasing awareness, thoughtful discussions, resultant mood swings(!), friendships, enemities, losses (of time) and gains (of weight!) are all real.

Can we still confidently draw the line between the online world and the real one?

Do we know when exactly a Facebook campaign suddenly gains huge momentum, facilitating a mass-protest in a country (eg., Egypt protests organized through Facebook and microblogging site Twitter)?

Pip pip Pippaaaa! (Pic courtesy telegraph dot co dot uk)

Why! We even saw a bunch of ‘real’ people who witnessed the Royal wedding and promptly went on to create a Facebook page for ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’. The page has 241,492 fans!

We did not see this coming (And I don’t mean Pippa Middleton).

We did not realise when or how the virtual world became an integral part of the real one. When being ‘online’ changed from a one-off indulgence to a gnawing daily necessity! When the power of the online world began to threaten that of the real one. Or when thoughts floating around online started influencing mind-sets in the physical world.

What do you think? Is the Virtual world really virtual anymore? Or is it so real that it poses social and even political dangers to society?

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Perhaps we should ask Kapil Sibal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Cross-posted on the nri dot com)

 

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19 thoughts on “The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?

  1. I loved this post…Actually you know what I love the way you write….your posts are far too few I feel
     Thank you, thank you SO MUCH R’s Mom! You made my day and weekend too 🙂  
    having said all that…lemme tell you I am no fan of FB…I am on FB..but now a days rarely access it..once in a while to get some cute pictures of friends’ children or confirm if anyone’s birthday I have missed to write an apology mail 🙂
      I’m a huge FB fan, girl 🙂 But you’re a smart woman to keep FB usage to a minimum! 
    I am more of a blogger…I love blogging and yes I must admit, I have met some fantastic people/bloggers thanks to my blog addiction..
      Ha ha, same pinch 🙂 
    I laughed at all the advantages you gave especially the photoshop one..at least in my case, I think I am going to use that one extensively to my advantage taking into account my size 🙂
      LOL! I need it too 😉 
    And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’. – HAHAHAHAHA
      Er, I used to spend more than 3 hrs per day 😦 Trying to shake it off now! 
    I like the virtual world…at least the blogging part of it 🙂 and if it can change for the betterment (is there such a word) of the society, why not use it to the fullest
      I love blogging too, and yes, in many ways it does change society for the better. My only concern is, is it getting too addictive that people will one day spend more of their life online than offline? 
    okie sorry for the long comment, kinda got carried away!
    Awww I looooooooooooooooove long comments… keep ’em coming, please!!

  2. I grinned right through the read, then nodded some, a bit seriously, and when I thought I’d mention Kapil Sibal in the comment box, there! I read it in your post :D!!
    LOL, I added that as an afterthought 😉
    As R’s Mom says, I do love the way you write. There is an immediacy, an instant connection, with the easy conversational style that pulls one in 🙂
    Thank you so much, Usha! Truly appreciate your kind words 🙂
    Laughed about the photoshop bit, endlessly :D!
    😆
    And squirmed when I read of the worries it generates. More than us grown-ups, it is the kids I worry about. At school, when I know most of them are so deep into the virtual world, one needs to get them real too! Though one might laugh it off and wonder about the bunking and sharing of ourselves, sometimes it is very very scary.
    Completely agree Usha. The kids don’t even realise how dangerous it could be. PSBB school, in Chennai, for example, made all the kids remove themselves from FB completely. I think that’s a good move, really. FB shouldn’t really be used by kids (IMHO!)
    All said and done, I love the virtual world just as much as the real 🙂 🙂
    Hee hee, me too 🙂

  3. lol @ upper age limit on FB 😛 and personal body guard
      🙂 
    and isn’t it great that children cannot bunk school/college and go to McD 😉 *on a lighter and brighter note* 😀
      Grrr… Even I can’t bunk my kid’s school any more and take him for a movie instead, Scribbly!! They’ll catch me red-handed! 
    Okay now coming to serious commenting:
      Righto! 
    I’m an FB person and most of the times I use FB is for scrabble playing with real friends [friends whom I know personally which include some which I came to know via blog too] and rest of the time it’s for fun sake…I’ve very limited number of people added to my list-not for the sake of adding,you know…the list consists only those relatives and friends whom I trust,can relate to and love staying in touch with…rest are just not allowed to peek in my life 🙂
      Scribbly, you know, that is exactly where I find FB very difficult. Sometimes we are forced to accept friends AND FAMILY because of various factors! I’d rather just keep some of them out! So, btw, u are on FB, are u? 😉
     

    So this makes it a bit easier for me to be open on FB cause I know who all are seeing / reading me and my updates like photos and status messages…
      sigh! If only I could re-start! 
    Also I feel FB is made for such things like updating status messages,updating what’s new in your life or what you achieved etc…of course by this I don’t justify people who update their status messages every few minutes including their pee and poop timings 😉 but in general..
      ROFL! Wish I’d thought of that while I was writing my post 😉 
    and I those who don’t want to be a part of these updates can very well choose to not receive them,no?
      True, and I block such people too. 
    I mean if FB was not for this then what will it be used for? What’s the use of social networking site then? I mean just plain and simple adding friends to your list and sitting on that doesn’t make any sense,does it? Instead updating your people about some or the happenings in your life does make sense cause these are the people you don’t mind sharing your lives with and you can’t talk to one and all every time…hence FB…
      What is important, I suppose is there should be a balance. Like, I really don’t want to know where xyz went with abc and did what?!! I love the communicating part of FB, just not the mindless status updates! 
    Another usage-could be to spread word..be it good,bad or ugly…it spreads faster and we all have witnessed it 🙂
      Absolutely, couldn’t agree with you more! 
    Any way that was for FB. Blogging is another way of venting your thoughts and receiving views about what the issues / topics..sharing cookery recipes, ideas of crafts, movie reviews..and so many things useful ….
      Agree again. I looooooooove blogging!! 
    having said all this..it totally depends on the person..there are people who misuse this freedom of expression and they sneak peak in other’s life…of course these are draw backs…
      Yes Scribbly, that’s a critical point. Misuse of information! 
    and even going by the advantages the web has..it still should not be core part of our lives cause there is a lot of life to be lived out and away from the web 🙂
    Amen to that, Scribbly. Couldn’t have said it better!

  4. I’m a huge fan of the online world! FB, Blogging are my fave activities!!
    Ha ha, we know 🙂
    But, I do strive to strike a good balance! Because Life is so much more than the Internet! 😀
    Definitely Pix. We need to know where to draw the line.
    I loved Scribby’s comment as well! 🙂
    Same pinch 🙂

  5. I’am not at all a FB fan but blogging is definitely an important part of my life…. I don’t know how good or bad it is to be so attached to something virtual but then the blog world has given me some really great friend and that’s what makes it really special… 🙂
    U’re really not an FB fan Tan? Wow! That’s interesting!! Blog world, yes, certainly, its a blessing 🙂
    LOL at the advantages of FB…. 😀
    🙂

  6. 🙂 I am not a fan of anything, I find them waste of space.. and most of the time on these sites people say something while they mean something else and they do something entoirely different thing 🙂
      Hmmm.. isn’t that true even in real life Bikki? I mean, people who are like that will be that way in real or online. Equally so, the genuine folks will remain genuine too, right? 
    I would love anytime the reality , to have fone converstion or meet a friend anything ..
    and the advantages u said nice…
      Ha ha. You are still to make a trip to London, btw. 
    I use to spend a lot of time earlier but look where it took me 🙂 .. so i have stopped and use FB only to put my new articles or tease a friend or make a joke at someone that all ..
      Er.. where did it take you 😉 Actually I’ve reduced my FB time immensely too, Bikki. 
    Blogging as u see has helped me a lot and i have made such lovely people as you my friends and its fun 🙂
    Blogging – for sure.. its one of the best things that has happened to me!!

  7. FB n other social presence is good nah, just write, no coffee-meetings,no dressing up in beauty parlors, no kharcha, all free….n u still find extraordinaire friends…no? okay, now come back to ur online presence b4 ur upper limit of FB users reaches 🙂
    Oh totally agree Pushy, esp abt the extraordinary friends… I’ve made so many, incl. your admirable self 🙂 I am trying hard to be more online Pushy, but you know , all the gain from my investment into FB last year,… I’m trying to shake that off 😉

  8. Excellent post, Pals! Very relevant listing-down of benefits and dangers of social media.
    Thank you Deeps

    Had a very similar discussion recently on a mums-group on facebook that I am a member of. I do realize that social media is fast becoming a necessary evil. The virtual and real have become so inter-twined that now it has reached a stage where the two have started to depend on each other to thrive.
    Wow, I never thought of that angle, Deeps. To me it was always ‘either / or’. And you opened my eyes to something more vital. 

    I am a huge huge FB fan, you knwo that, dont you, fellow FB-fangirl? ;). It helps me stay connected to my friends and family and believe me its far easier and (more economical) for a person like me who lives away from home to stay in touch via this medium than calling them up. I even have it installed in my phone so I can keep myself connected with them on the go :D.
    Hee hee, same pinch!

    So, be it blogs where I get to read so many wonderful and inspiring posts( although its a pity that I dont get to read them as often as I used to 😦 ) or where I get to vent my heart out and come-across some like-minded women in the process- I’ll forever be grateful to the blog-world which has given me so many life-long friends like you with whom I can be as close and open about my life as I am to any of my ‘real’ friends- or be it twitter where I get to catch a quick glimpse of whats happening around the world , I have experienced many pluses where social media is concerned.
    +1 to that Deeps, couldn’t have agreed more!

    Having said that, I realize that there are many dangers to the social media too as you so rightly and notably have pointed out because of which I have a very strict regulation about who I befriend and who not on FB. Yes I do get a few ‘hiiiiii, lets be fraaands’ requests off and on from practical strangers and some those who I interact with on blogs. I reject those requests making them amply clear that my FB account is solely for family and close friends.
    LOL @ ‘fraanship’ requests!!!

    Have to say though that I cringe when I see children as small as 7 or 8 year olds or even 11year olds having a facebook account..I may be overreacting, but I feel FB is too vulnerable a place for children so small :(. Maybe they are monitored by their parents, maybe these kids know their limits, yet the kind of explosive material that are forever splashed on these websites I feel these kids should be kept away from them till atleast they are mature enough. Maybe I am wrong and plain old-fashioned!
    You are absolutely RIGHT Deeps. FB is certainly not for kids. There are too many perverts around!! 

    Anyway at the end of the day, pals, I think the key is to know your limits and stay away from addiction so that it doesnt reach a point where it begins to dictate your life. If you manage to ensure that then I think social media is an excellent tool which you can put to good use in your life.
    Absolutely right Deeps. You put it beautifully. 

    With that, I end my thesis on this topic 😀
    And an excellent one, if I may add!!

  9. Hmm I have so much to say that I don’t even know where to start !! All I can say is that I do feel far better when I log off for a few days 😛
    Yep me too. I love FB and blogging and the great WWW itself. But a breather once in a while is a good thing.

  10. Lol at “Dat Pic Lukng Hawt”. Gosh, Its so difficult to understand that chat slang!
    Seriously! I have a hard time understanding that jargon!
    My teenage niece does the same thing, and he was casually saying that he is going on a date (he’s just in his 11th std) So is this virtual venom!
    OMG! may I just ask which country/city he is in? I’m afraid you will say India!!
    LMAO at Pippa’s ASS!
    👿
    But that said..I’m a fan of (not her F******* A**), but of Virtual world! I love spending time on FB, blog,flickr. It’s actually nice to meet people whom you don’t even know and trying to strike a conversation with them especially when both of you have a common interest! I’m sure you do?? Otherwise you wouldn’t have investigated so much about FB! Ha!
    Oh you caught me red-handed now Vaish. I looooooooooooove the virtual world!

  11. social thingy can be very time consuming and at times the pressure is just too much… everything in moderate is fine..but when it’s excess it turns crazy i guess…
    Yep, you said it! Everything in moderation is the key!!!

  12. Hmmm this post gets me thinking, seriously.I think the question you asked at the end is screaming out the fact that those dangers can actaully happen.FB is no longer just a site it’s a world where people of all age group have their accounts in.But one thing we all should be cautious of is the settings which is the most integral part of privacy.If you know the settings you will feel safe enough to be a part of this virtual world.
    check this –
    Are You a Facebook Addict?
    Check out if you are obsessed with this social networking site!
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/facebook-addict/facebook-addict_instructions.asp
    Thank you Sherlyn, for your comment, I agree we need to be very careful about privacy settings. The problem here is lack of awareness!!

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