I was recently at the TEDx Bangkok conference, and one of the presenters kept referring to the “real world” and the “online world” as if they were separate things. Listening to her talk it kind of hit me, that we have come so far that these are no longer separate worlds, and we should stop treating them as such.
These days nearly 50% of my waking hours are probably spent online. Now that is kind of a sad realization, but when it all comes down to it, that’s the truth. Due to this, I have a hard time believing that almost half of my time is spent in a “fake world” that doesn’t exist. The fact of the matter is that, just about anything you can do in real life, you can do on the internet. Sure it’s different, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Every single day friendships are made, business deals are crafted and relationships begin and end. If I’ve spent three hours talking to someone via skype over the past few months, but haven’t sat down and had a beer with them in person, does that make them any less of a friend? Does that mean we aren’t real friends? I don’t believe so.
As the internet becomes more engrained in our day to day lives you will start to notice that the line between the “online world” and “real world” will get blurrier and blurrier. The sooner you can embrace an online relationship as something that is very real, and here to stay, the sooner you can begin taking advantage of them.
In previous posts, you’ve heard me mention the virtues of being able to meet people who share similar interests. A few days ago I experienced an excellent example of this. Chris Guillebeau was in Bangkok for a couple of days over the weekend and helped to organize a meetup. Around 20 people showed up, most of whom had never met in person, but each one had a very similar passion: travel. We sat for hours talking about experiences and trips, and just about everyone could relate to each other in one way or another, regardless of the fact they had never met in person.
If being able to see someone in person or hear them speak is what constitutes a relationship, then what about the blind person that can never see who they are talking to, or the deaf person that can’t hear a word you are saying? Does that mean they are incapable of having a “real” relationship? Absolutely not. The bottom line is, the person on the other side of the screen is in fact a real person, capable of all the same feelings and thoughts you experience. Therefore those interactions are just as real as every other that you experience.
I think this debate stems from the fact that such a large percentage of the world grew up in a time where there was no internet. The closest thing to it was having a relationship with a pen pal across the world. So, when you spent decades of your life seeing things one way, it can become difficult to look at things from a different perspective. Maybe it’s because I’ve had the internet for the better part of my life and have learned to embrace it and all that it means. Because of the internet, you are reading this, I can support myself and I certainly wouldn’t be in Thailand if it weren’t for the relationships that I formed via the web.
I think the internet is the most powerful tool in the world for conducting business and building relationships. In 10 years, this will no longer be a valid discussion, because the idea of an online relationship will be even more widely accepted than it is now.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a close friendship or business relationship that is strictly based through the web? Do you think an online relationship is a real one?