Online Vs. Offline

April 6, 2011

I noticed with a lot of older people, they are often afraid or uncertain about this technological tool, called the “internet”. For us younger generations who grew up with emails, chat-rooms, and forums, the internet life is a bit more understandable and less frightening to us, not to mention way too easy for us to navigate in. Not to say that the over forty crowd are all technophobic! My mother (won’t mention her age here) is pretty good with the internet and is not fearful of it. She has experienced the joys of chat-rooms, forums, researching with Google, and also social networking sites. And she have made a few good friends online, who are considered as close family friends for years now. I’m thinking of my “Uncle” Guy, as I write this. :-p

Not to mention the many successful over 40 crowd, who are professional bloggers, some that I follow on a daily basis. Also artists who wish to get their work out there to the public or gain some encouragement and tips from others within the artisan world. The internet can be a very useful tool, as much as a cellphone is to most people, for it’s the super information highway. There’s so much to learn, experience, and discover online.

But, when it comes to socialization and relationships on the net, people tend to be divided on the subject. There is a huge debate of online relationships versus offline relationships. The younger generation usually gets it, when I explain that I have a best friend and he’s online. But the older generation  seem to think it’s weird or a wildly foreign concept, to have relationships online. Also they began to question the validity of my friend (that I’ve known for almost two years now) and then the very nasty assumptions began… that I must have an internet addiction. :-/

Not to say that internet addiction doesn’t exist, along with any addiction out there, like over-eating, gambling, addiction to cellphones or PDA’s, shopping addiction, and the usual of alcohol and narcotic addictions. I’m addicted to cigarettes and coffee, but the internet, I am not.

The only difference between online interaction and offline, is hearing the voice and seeing a person’s face.  Though, with services like “Skype” and webcams, a person can see and hear a person face-to-face online too. I have done that before, a long time ago. ;-)

The older generation likes to argue that a person can’t lie or hide as well, as they can online. It’s true that a lot of people hide themselves online and internet predators are very real. However, the same is true for offline. Offline, I once dated a guy who presented himself to me and my family as the stand-up citizen, spoke very proper, and swept me off my feet with his charm. It took three weeks, but I found out the truth about him… he was an ex-convict who had just been released from prison a few months before meeting me, still living with and dating his girlfriend, I was unknowingly the “other girl”. And when I confronted him about all of this, he spoke very “street”, his posh accent gone.

Predators are in both worlds, online and offline, so my tip to everyone is to be cautious and aware, no matter if you’re socializing online or offline. Neither place is different or worse off from the other, when it comes down to it. A person can get hurt, swindled, or tricked online and offline all the same. :-o

Another issue with would be, I think some make the mistake, young and old, that the internet is “just a game”. As most places on the net can offer a person anonymity, some take this freedom to mean that they can say and do whatever they want to other net-users. This is how we get cyber-bullying, chat-room trolls, and forum snerts. But the offenders can not be more wrong on this. On the internet, sure the username is faceless and it may seem like words on a screen, however that’s a real person behind that username, with real feelings and emotions. And words can hurt, if not scar, hence the rash of teenage deaths from cyber-bullying.

The person on the other side of the screen is a human being and not a robot. Let’s hope not! Because that would mean that the machines are raising up and we’re headed for a Matrix-like war! I have dibs on Neo! :-p

And besides the silliness, this is my basic point… the internet is comprised of human beings, therefore things like friendship, romance, heartbreak, loneliness, happiness, joy, and drama is bound to happen within it. These are human emotions after all, and no one stops being human and become machine, as soon as they log online.  So it can’t be helped if our humanity bleeds into cyberspace. I’m not saying that people should give up an offline life and stay in the wire, like some cult-ish chant from the storyline of the anime “Serial Experiments Lain”. The internet can’t replace human touch or some of the wider experiences of life, like traveling to new places and skydiving.

But, I take an offense to those who would wish to discount my friendships online, as not being “real”. They are real to me and I am real to the many people I care to chat with online. And those who are usually quick to discount it are not offering to be a “real-life” friend of mine anyhow, just overly opinionated passersby.  And the best thing is, my friends and associates online are not passersby, or overly opinionated. ;-)



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