For many people, the Internet’s the only place they feel ‘like themselves’ and, as a result, they act differently here than the way they would in Real Life. The problem with this belief however is two-fold: the Internet is still Real Life, and if you act against established societal norms ANYWHERE, there’s going to be trouble at some point down the line. This basic understanding underpins a lot of the interaction I have with people over time: there’s a Real and then Internet and it’s all well and good until you lose control of either one or the other. In the last week, I’ve watched Internet take over a lot of people’s Real concerns with a detriment that frankly doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It shouldn’t make anyone amazed either, because when you decide you want everything all at once?
There are always consequences.
Why do these internet images hold so much sway with people? What is it about Motivational Cat posters that makes the visual so much more persuasive than the reality? Is it because in these small, bite sized segments it becomes easier to cope with what we are asked of? As life becomes ever more complex do people look to the instant, the moments to provide what sometimes decades of conventional wisdom has failed to give them? Mostly, I think people flock to the Internet as a coping mechanism because, albeit for short periods of time, it gives them total control of their destiny where often that right is anything but theirs to wield. You are the Mistress of your Own Destiny online, and can hold sway over a court that is yours to move and dictate with blocks and ignores.
That’s all well and good until the past catches up with you, or someone bucks the trend of just walking away and challenges your supremacy. What happens then? How do you keep your space safe and untainted? Well, you don’t. Because there is no sanctuary in life, only respite. There are no ways to cheat death, or anger, or love. They happen, whether you like it or not, and most importantly of all when they affect other people and not you? There’s a chance that you’re beautifully constructed life will collapse around you. The measure of us as human beings is how you deal with the angry, and the dismissive, and the adoring and inevitably with the end of all things.
You are your own Universe, like it or not. I may not be a religious person, but it is not hard to understand why God is so important in so many people’s lives, because when there is another person in your heart and mind? A lot of life’s issues become a hell of a lot easier to deal with. God is your conscience, your mentor, and your yardstick. It’s easy to grasp why, in the early days of man’s fragile existence on the planet, having someone else in your head to deal with change became beyond significant. It gave monks a focus to keep knowledge alive, it drove artisans to think freely for the glory of a greater good.
Having only your own mind as a guide is a dangerous process, fraught with potential peril. It’s easy to see why so many view the Internet as dangerous, when so few people carry a moral compass with them when they stare at a screen. Because all mortal desires are here, hidden under the surface veneer of social media. The Internet may well be your heaven, escape in the form of freedom of expression, but it’s also a thinly veiled version of hell. Real and Virtual are no different from salvation and purgatory, for many people. It all depends on where you stick your frames of reference.
I’m not your friend online. I’m some random woman whose blog you’re reading. You can try and think we’re friends because we may talk online from time to time, but only after years and years and YEARS of knowing each other is it probably fair to use that word as a correct definition. I think we need a new word for the people we know only virtually, that Facebook can’t hijack and pretend to use as some magical glue that sticks the world together in their Social Media platform. Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely of the belief that you can be mentally and physically close to someone you’ve never met, but that involves BOTH PARTIES acquiescing, not just one compensating for the other.
For everyone else, we should be vriends. Virtual Friends, who you see and smile and wave at as you travel from Site A to Website B every day. A clear distinction between the real and the created, that people can use and feel comfortable with in polite conversation. ‘I have so many vriends but none of them became a friend like you.’ Then you have a definition between one place and another, and everybody knows which platform they’re working on.
If only everything were that simple to change.