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real life

Contributor(s): Elisa Meneghin

Real life is a term used to describe what happens outside the Internet and implies that somehow the Internet furnishes us with a virtual life . Depending on the context, usage of the term may imply one or more of the following:

  • The Internet is an artificial reflection or weak imitation of life that, in spite of its ability to let us quickly be in contact with knowledge and people at great distance, lacks the ability to engage the full range of our emotions and powers. In this sense, real life is seen as superior to virtual life.
  • Increasing numbers of us spend time working on or using the Internet and somehow our work life on or frequent preoccupation with the Internet is seen as an intrusion into our lives. In this sense, real life is seen as a welcome respite from the keyboard and display.
  • For those who become happily and fully engaged with the Internet -- for example, gamer s and those who get involved with 3-D environments or chatting -- real life can be seen as a letdown, meaning back to the mundane.
  • For anyone who communicates with others on the Internet, there is an air of the virtual or "made-up" in one's e-mail or chat voice or persona (often exemplified by the e-mail address or the chat name that one adopts). In chat environments, there is even the possibility of using a mask or avatar to represent you. In the aspect of personal identity, real life means returning to your "real" name and place in the world.
Paradoxically, perhaps especially for those who work on it every day, Internet activity can come to seem more like one's real life and feeding the cat can come to seem surreal or virtual.
This was last updated in September 2005

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