It is interesting how we cling to the idea of real life isn’t it? The most common push back on those of us who spend time online is that we are somehow cutting ourselves off from real life, that our exchanges are less than face to face in some way.
But how real is real life anyway? We filter massive amounts of the reality around us. We can only cope with noticing a tiny percentage of the stimuli received by our senses. We do this filtering mostly unconsciously but on the basis of perceived meaning. We decide what we are going to pay attention to and do so on the basis of the stories, some deeply held for a long time, that we tell ourselves about what matters. We do this even when face to face. We notice tone of voice and decide it means something. We notice what people are wearing and decide that that means something. But who’s to say that we are right? Once we have filtered, interpreted, and imposed our own meaning on the real world -just how real is it?
In contrast, certainly to those of us like me who have spent a lot of our lives for a long time online, the online world can feel more real. It is certainly more direct. More intimate. The ideas conveyed by the words I read go more directly into my brain than the words I hear you speak face to face. The ideas I am taking in feel as if they are arising in my own brain – not from somewhere outside it. It feels almost biological, as if some synapses fire inside my brain and some outside it.
This is a powerful feeling. When sustained over years it begins to reduce the feeling that we are separate both from ourselves and from the world around us. It makes us feel more connected to reality not less. It is, for me, the intellectual equivalent of sitting on a mountainside being buffeted by the wind. It feels like real life on steroids. It feels evolutionary. It feels good.