Living in the world during this time of online communication has left me feeling as if the Internet is more of a home to me than the house I spent my teenage years in. It’s where I get most of my films, series, music, research material, books, reference images and great works of art- all of the things one needs to lead a vaguely culturally stimulated life. I’ll also buy clothing, electronic equipment, art supplies, craft supplies and all kinds of things for the house online. It’s more natural for me to go online than it is to turn on the television, hard to be on a computer without feeling a compulsion to use the Internet for something.
Chatting and interacting online has become a huge part of modern socialisation, and I for one unashamedly love to spend time interacting on Facebook solidifying existing relationships with ridiculous memes and hilarious gifs, or even striking up new relationships with friends of friends with ridiculous memes and hilarious gifs. It is very rare for people to not be familiar with Internet culture and online relationships, and as such has influenced the way we relate to each other in real life. Real life interaction between regular Internet users is both comforting and confronting because we now see ourselves and other people very differently. There are ups and downs. Pro’s and con’s.
Real life interaction Pro #1: You can see the true nature of the person you’re interacting with. You can see the way their mouth twitches sometimes, or the look in their eye when you tell them about the crush you have on a person, hear the nuances of their laugh, see the way their head moves when they listen to their favourite song, watch their arms movements when they’re excited. These things are extremely important aspects of who that person really is, much more so than little actions described in asterisks. That being said, a well-described action in asterisks can be a terrific indicator of the sharpness of their mind. A sharp mind is a good mind.
Real life interaction Con #1: It is impossible to mimic Nicholas Cage’s face when the conversation calls for it. And sometimes the conversation really calls for it. Only on the internet. God I love the internet.
Pro #2: You’re able to physically touch the person. You don’t have to, but the option is there. And they can touch you. Feeling another person’s body, even if it is just through their jumper when you pat them on the shoulder on your way to the bathroom, seems essential to staving off extreme loneliness. A human who never touches another human would be a sad human indeed. And who doesn’t love high fiving and playful butt slapping?
Con #2: If you woke up and left the house without showering, brushing your teeth, doing your hair, putting on make up etc, people are going to know, and people are probably going to judge you badly for it. It is necessary to put time and effort into making yourself presentable (at least for most of us), and while that sure has its merits, sometimes you just can’t be bothered you know? The Internet doesn’t judge. No one is thinking that your typing looks messy today, unless you can’t type properly because you’re drunk or tripping or something.
Pro #3: It is possible to bond through physical activities with your fellow human. Throwing a Frisbee around the park, climbing trees and then sitting on the limbs and chatting, riding bikes, skating, playing on playground equipment, sitting on the beach, diving into the ocean, all nice things you can share with other people in real life that are impossible to properly experience if you’re talking about it online. Chances are that if you’re an internet lover, you’re probably updating your Facebook status with things like “JUST CHASED THE BEST DOG THROUGH THE PARK” and then post photos of the dog to show everyone you know who wasn’t there with you how cute it was, and that kind of a shared experience, but it doesn’t match the feeling you have when you and your friend are sitting on the grass panting after the dog has left and you’re both giggling about how the friend did a face plant because the dog got caught in their legs.
Con #3: You can’t self edit your emotional responses to things. I find that when I get into argument on the internet, most of my time is spent working out the calmest, most logical way to get my point across, but in real life I tend to just get stroppy and clam up, with an expression of disgust on my face that I can’t hide which tends to piss of whoever is pissing me off. Instead of a well thought out sentence in reply to a shitty thing that was said, I invariably ramble and say “like” and “you know?” too many times and get frustrated and slam my clenched fists on things. The Internet is better for arguments. Real life arguments should be avoided at all cost.
All of these things are going to come to a head when I finally meet my two internet friends in the USA (no set plans yet, but the day will come)- I’ve known them for nearly 10 years online only, so I’ve never had the chance to hear them fart while we’re talking, see how they swig that last bit of beer in the bottle, and they’ve never gotten to smell my armpits when I throw my hands in the air to punctuate a sentence. Meeting in real life and having these real interactions will be incredibly bizarre, but when it comes down to it… we can send each other all the funny things in the world, but the entirety of the Internet’s lols combined couldn’t match the satisfaction that comes from a well executed high five, and I’ve got 10 years of high fives to catch up on with these guys.