The Real World is Not Virtual

What in our lives can’t we do on the web?

We can order pizza, groceries, clothing, and DVD’s (what more could one need?) over the internet. We can telecommute to work, have the WebMD diagnose our illnesses, and get spiritual nourishment at Cyber-Church. We can make our friends at MySpace, find our spouses through E-Harmony, and tell all about it with in-depth detail on our blogs. Our baby pictures are found at Flickr, and when we die, those who still remain our friends list or blogrolls can find our graves at

An entire life can be lived online. Almost.

Of course what is missing from the above scenario, among other things, is the act of meeting someone face to face.

Martha Irvine has penned a thoughtful, must-read piece for the AP that highlights a few young Americans who are giving up their Facebook and MySpace accounts in exchange for actually meeting people face to face in the real world. Irvine interviewed Michael Bugeja, author of Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age:

Though he’s not anti-technology, Bugeja often lectures students about “interpersonal intelligence” – knowing when, where and for what purpose technology is most appropriate.

He points out the students he’s seen walking across campus, holding hands with significant others while talking on cell phones to someone else. He’s also observed them in coffee shops, surrounded by people, but staring instead at a computer screen.

“True friends,” he tells them, “need to learn when to stop blogging and go across campus to help a friend.”

Even introverts like me still have the need for face to face contact that can’t be replaced by the internet — no matter how “connected” it makes us. I’ve worked in places where colleagues would page each other over the intercom rather than walk the ten or twenty feet to the office next door. Sure, time and energy may be saved via technology, but lost is the invaluable non-verbal communication that could likewise reduce wasted resources.

The point is that while the soul can be honed and shaped by wired (or wireless) connectedness, we must always be aware that it carries with it an inherent disconnectedness that can only be bridged through person-to-person contact.