Are you more ‘REAL’ Online than Offline?

Albert Einstein once wrote: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

With the introduction of the internet and social networks, we started living in a world where people have two lives; an online and an offline one. Both lives have things in common, but have major personality differences between them as well. This is not exclusive to Jordan; it is a global trend that is spreading everywhere. However in an eastern country with a conservative culture highly influenced by religion, the differences between the two lives can be major.

Man is social by nature, so stresses Ibn Khaldun in his Prolegomena –and so did Aristotle before him. We need to be constantly in touch with other people. And in an online world, this has become very easy; you can get in contact with anyone on the go, and distances no longer matter. This, however, has made us value the interactions with people less; we no longer give importance to meeting people in person. A quick message or email just solves the issue, and if you have anything to share you can post a simple “status update” or “tweet”.

However, many argue that this huge mass of online friends and “followers” are just phantoms of reality. These people may not be your actual friends and perhaps should not be treated as such. Since people are different online and offline this may as well be true, because most of the time if you meet these people in real life, you won’t bet getting along as well with them as you do online; making us question our current definition of “friendship”.

One more argument against social networks is that they are currently converting your interest to a bubble of friends, which agree with you in everything you say and support you. Nowadays you merely have to post a simple status update on your social network of choice and you get flooded with admirers that “support” and “like” your ideas. Social networks -like facebook for example- have algorithms that only show you updates from friends that share your ideas. This is making us lose contact with friends that have different views on life, and this is also subsequently making us more extreme about our ideas, because we have no one that challenges us, and that’s just another social impact.

"oh I can't really see outside this"

“OMG, I really cannot see beyond this thing” [image from http://travelsofstacey.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/imgp8583.jpg]

On the flip side:    

Perhaps it’s true that our society restricts us too much in terms of expressing ourselves. We have taboos controlling our lives, and manners and codes of respect to follow.

At times, this society does not permit us to express our true emotions due to fear of isolation. This is not exclusive to Jordan but it is generally the case in any eastern society. All that leads to many unspoken words and feelings that need to be let out, and in an online environment a person feels himself free of all those restrictions and is thus a different person. Removing these barriers allows us to show things we won’t have the courage to show in real life.

Expressing your words and feelings online does not necessarily mean that you have two personalities. We don’t act and talk with our friends the same we do with our parents or colleagues at work, for example. So Assuming that societal rules no longer apply – rules which are always changing, albiet slowly, the gap between the two personalities will probably diminish.

One could argue that since reality is merely a persistent illusion as Einstein points out, this online illusion can probably be our new reality, as it is becoming more persistent than ever. This does not really affect the importance of having an offline life, it just adds to the importance of having an online one.

So until our society rules catch up to our online standards, is it healthy having this huge gap, or this illusion of having many friends or followers? Discuss in the comments below.

About Omar Jubran

When a geeky engineer decides to write, you can expect trouble. Omar is all about science and reports on the social issues facing the day-to-day Jordanian. His mantra: Each voice makes a difference.

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