My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Virtual World: A Cheap, Unworthy Substitute for the Real World

Today I am going to talk about every young person's favorite past time, the internet.  Or should I say every young person's only past time?  Or even worse, is the internet no longer a past time, but a way of life?  Perhaps everything not internet is now the past time?  I know its ironic that I ask these questions in a blog on the internet, but I will ask them nonetheless.  No one can deny that the internet has dramatically changed society, but how exactly? It is certainly a great tool.  One can find things and do things instantly, like look up when Michael Jackson was born or email your best friend, that would have taken far longer before the internet.  You would of had to rely on snail mail! Gasp!  Yes, the internet certainly is helpful.  It has indeed made life more comfortable.  However this great tool is beginning to become a substitute for many for an actual life.  People are trading in their actual lives for virtual lives.

Just take Facebook for example.  A "friend" is no longer someone that you have developed a mutual bond with over a long time and that you know you can trust.  A "friend" is now someone that you have added on Facebook.  No one in real life has 1,354 friends, that is impossible, yet in Facebook world it is.   You actually had to talk to a real friend to learn about them, but not in Facebook world!  Now you can learn "everything there is to know" about a person simply by checking their info, wall, and pictures.  Facebook, and other "social tools" have cheapened the value of friendship.  People have let the virtual world take over the real world, and this is the result.  Friendships are now quantifiable.  Friendships are now only "screen" deep, so to speak.  I can be your friend without ever talking to you, thats messed up.  Its not as if these virtual "friends" have left us feeling any more loved.  People are just as lonely as ever, if not more lonely.  Yet people cling to these virtual friends as cheap, quick substitutes for real ones.  After all, a real friend can hurt your feelings.  A real friend can betray your trust.  You can't terminate a real friendship simply by clicking an "unfriend" button.  A real friendship takes work, it is a longterm investment.  It takes time to pay off, yet when it does, it is far more valuable than precious than even 2309407230843095843 Facebook friends.  Nevertheless, people have picked the cheap, quick and easy virtual friendship, and their reward will forever be a shallow, empty, and unfulfilling social life.

Besides the social realm the internet has also provided a means of escape from reality in other realms.  One can literally look up anything your heart desires.  One can warp yourself with one click of a button to a fairytale land with gumdrops, double rainbows, and pornstars.  You can "go" anywhere you want.  You can travel off to virtual China or go gambling.  You can have virtual sex and learn all there is to know about Zimbabwean politics.  However, these cheap substitutes for the real thing, whether it is travel, luxury, humor, or sex, can never replace the real thing, just as virtual friendship can't replace real friendship.  They are empty, shallow experiences restricted to your computer screen.  They can never deliver like a real experience.  Yet, like the virtual friendships, they are appealing because their is no risk involved.  You don't have to spend the money to travel to China.  You don't have to worry about the language barriers.  You do not have to worry about rejection, ever.  Yet in the end this lifeless virtual experience will reward you with nothing more than a shallow, empty, and unfulfilling life.

Don't get me wrong, the internet is a great tool.  One can learn everything one can learn in books on the internet.  However, book smart is not the same as street smart.  You will never gain street knowledge of the world or of people unless you put yourself out there, take the risk, and go for it.  You may be able to learn "everything" about China on the internet, but once you go there I guarantee you will realize how little you actually knew.  That is because written words and pictures can only convey so much information.  It neglects all the other senses.  In addition, there are some things we learn in life we cannot express.  There are many things that are of value in life that are not quantifiable.  The only way you learn these things is by experiencing them.

Yet many people go on treating the internet as if they can live out a real life on it, despite the fact it is devoid of all that makes life real.  Yet, ultimately, one will have a really warped view of the real world if one based it all off of things you learned on the internet.  You would think that everyone on Facebook was having the greatest time if you looked at their pictures, and that something must be wrong with you, because you are not.  Yet in reality, all those pictures are what they want you to think of them.  They are not a fair representation of the person, for the person is simply posting pictures that make them look like an awesome, exciting person.  If you checked out the comments to a youtube video, you would think that people are absolutely rotten.  Yet in reality no one would say half those things in person.  Think about it, if you based what you thought about the world strictly on your experience on the internet, you would have an extremely warped and false view.  Yes, there is much you can learn on the internet, but you could only learn half the story.  The other half of the story can only be learned by going out there and experiencing life for yourself, discovering the intangibles that can't be expressed in words or pictures.

In conclusion, the internet is a great tool, but it is just that, a tool.  It was never meant to serve as a replacement for reality, so don't make it one.  Don't raise it on a pedestal it does not deserve.  Life belongs on that pedestal, not the internet.  You will forever live an empty life if you constrict it to the internet.  Yes, there will be no risks, but there will also be no blessings.  Your worldview will no doubt be skewed, for the knowledge you gain of the internet is only of one type, and that must be balanced against experience to have a healthy understanding of the world.  So go out there, and live life.  You will fail and look stupid every once in a while, but I guarantee you, that in the end you will be grateful you chose to live a real life, not a virtual one.

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