Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What is real?

I had a conversation with someone last night, in which a particular line uttered by them struck me as ao very odd that I thought I'd repeat it here and see what y'all think of it.

It went thusly:

"Those people that you know online; they're not real."

For a moment I gawped like a landed trout, not able to respond to what I thought was utter ridiculousness. Not real? NOT REAL?

Being me, my first line of mental comeback was "well, if they're NOT real, then who is doing all the typing and commenting and e-mailing, huh? Ghosts? Figments of my imagination? Can ghosts and figments use a computer? Huh, HUH?"

My second thought was to rejoin with a well-placed bit of stunned silence. Which I did, because the first response would maybe have been perceived as being a tad snotty.

The third move in my arsenal of weak replies was to mentally list out all the "not real" people I've met through this "online thing," and ponder asking the person who started this line of conversation to deny that people like Renn and Kenju and JC and Purl are NOT real. I've EATEN with them, I've heard them talk, I've seen them breathe, I work with some and work out with others - does this not make them real? How can one deny the existence of such clearly sentient beings, just because I met some of them online????

(However, I did not list and query along these lines out loud, because, again, I was assiduously avoiding any overt air of defensiveness or hauteur (read: snottiness).)

Corollary to the line of thought two paragraphs up- if I know people first in real life, and then get to know them further through their blogs and websites, does that mean that they, at some point, become UNREAL? Is there some portal through which they travel, so that when they're online, they're apparitions of reality, shades of truth, or, perhaps, are they MORE real online than they can be in real life?

My head started to spin like an exorcism victim, it really did. I think I might have been working on a pea-soup barf blast just for effect, to illustrate how upset this conversation was making me. Except, I didn't have pea soup for dinner, and, well, sorry, but beef stroganoff vomit just isn't the same, so I nixxed that idea (though the spray pattern, complete with flecks of rice, might have been impressive).

I therefore did the only reasonable thing a person who lives in a complete fantasy world would do in a situation like this: I vowed to make this topic my very next blog post, so that I can query all y'all UNREAL folk out there to see what you think.

Here's the BIG question: Do you consider me, and other online folk, not real?

I think you know my position on this just from this post, but I wonder if I'm mistaken in my embracing of the online world as a viable social and creative outlet. Was my partner in conversation correct, and am I all wet on this thing?

I'd be interested to know your thoughts. Please leave 'em in the comments.

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