You wake up. You reach over to your bedside table, grab your ringing phone and click the dismiss button to stop the alarm. Phone still in hand, you rub your left eye, but leave the right one open and peek at the device in your palm. Eleven new emails and four texts. You check them sleepily–texts from your mom, your sister and two from your best friend. Then move on to the emails–one from work, a few from school, some announcing sales at your favorite stores and lastly, a notification that John Smith wants to be your friend on Facebook. John Smith? Who is that?
Getting out of bed, you plop down in front of your computer and pull up the social networking site. You check out John Smith, but still don’t know who he is. Then you realize he has sent you a message. “Hey, we met at a bar the other night. It wasn’t anything big, we just introduced ourselves. How are you?” You still don’t really remember him, but you accept the friend request anyway. Then you go back to your news feed, where you see that your friend in Texas has put up new pictures. Clicking through them, you realize you haven’t talked to her in almost two years, but still know most of what’s going on in her life.
So much of our lives has been infiltrated by virtuality and technology that it’s rare that we have more actual face time in a day than virtual. We text, BBM, Facebook chat, Gchat, Skype, iChat and tweet far more often than we take the time to meet up face to face, and we don’t have a problem with that. (In fact, I just stopped and typed out a text in the middle of writing that sentence.) Often we have online friends that we have never met outside of the digital world–something that not long ago may have been considered a little strange, but has recently become a social norm. The number of online dating sites grows almost daily, and people find shared interests on all different kinds of blogs–from fashion to comics to music. But just because we like to look at the same website as someone, does that mean we should be friends?
Many people believe that virtual relationships are fake and watered down, and in a lot of instances that is true. Think about it–how much do you really know about all of your Facebook friends? Are the majority of them even your friends at all? Are they even real people? Or just fakes created by a lonely woman in the middle of nowhere like in that Catfish movie?
We may feel like we know people that we meet online because we spend such a huge portion of our lives in front of our computer screens, but who we are online can be totally different from who we are in real life. The internet provides a safety filter through which we feel we can be more outgoing, wittier and all around more impressive than we may be when approached on the street. Imagine that you start following someone on Twitter because every single one of their tweets makes you almost pee your pants, but you decide to meet them in person and discover they look a little bit like Chewbacca with even less social skills. Or, there’s always the chance he looks like Bradley Cooper and is just as funny as his 140-character one-liners. Either way, meeting people on the internet is a gamble, no matter how well you think you know them. And we’re always crossing our fingers for a jackpot.
So is it bad that so much of our personal lives and relationships are online? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem to be a trend that will go away soon.