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dear virtual reality

November 30, 2009

after months of promoting anti-blackberry propaganda, i’m reluctant to admit i’ve become obsessed. emails no longer linger unread in my inbox and bbm has become my de facto method of communication.

group chats, emoticons, voice notes all combine for free instant communication with anyone. i no longer have to calculate the time difference between myself and my college buddies who are dispersed throughout the world when i want to reach out to them.

since it’s become my obsession, it’s no surprise that i talk about it. a lot. two recent conversations have really got me thinking about this new form of communication and how it’s reshaping our relationships .

the first happened while i was discussing the different forms of digital dialogue with a friend. as i grabbed my blackberry mid conversation to show her my latest twitter stream, she giggled sarcastically and observed that the more we connect in the virtual world, the less we are connecting in reality.

her argument was that by poking, pinging or tweeting our way to each other, we only fool ourselves into believing that we’ve connected. i couldn’t agree more with her sentiment (even though i’m sometimes guilty of this superficial transgression).

while a poke doesn’t substitute a hug and a ping doesn’t replace the sound of your lips greeting another person’s cheek, it is a way to quickly and un-comittingly let someone know that you’re thinking of them.

and with so many options of connecting – to friends and strangers – it is up to each of us to determine how connected we want to be to those around us.

that lead me to my second conversation. while i pride myself on my nerdy knowledge, i usually shy away from publicizing my geekiness in public. yet i somehow found myself giving the uber-odd-ball thumbs-up while conversing with a buddy at a new bar. shocked at my uninhibited display of dullness, my cousin shot me a quick “what-was-that” glance.

i realized that my propensity to answer bbms with a thumbs up emoticon had found it’s way out of the virtual world and into my real time communication. and such is the paradox of our digital revolution – the more time we spend connecting in cyberspace, the more our real life behavior will mimic those moves. which leaves me with a plethora of questions about where we’re going.

we already find ourselves perpetuating voyeuristic habits. so what’s next? will we tempted to break dunbar’s magic threshold and expand our circles the way we’re tempted to do on facebook and myspace? will our language reflect short-hand? will our thoughts be limited to 140 characters? the classic chicken-and-egg debate continues.

virtual, mate with reality.

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