Virtual fantasies and online realities

Years ago I watched a documentary on TV. This is it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POE0nBKFo9Y Entitled Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love it explored the addictive nature of Second Life, an online venue I’ve never visited and probably never will, but the programme itself contained some fascinating insights into the human tendency to fall into an imaginary world and fail to attend to the ‘real’ one. The woman in question had a husband and several children, all of whom she ignored in favour of spending 16 hours a day online playing fantasy games with her online lover. I won’t say more, but it’s a fascinating watch. But I’d like to extrapolate, mainly because someone replied to my three year old comment there today, a case in point of sorts in itself. What we put out there in the virtual world can return to us at any time because time doesn’t pass in the same way.

I should probably make a video on this because it’s a massive and complex subject, but for now I don’t want to quite throw it open, just throw it out there. There are so many psychological potholes to fall down in cyberspace. On the one hand we can forge powerful and real connections, some of which then end up translating into flesh, but on the other we can seriously delude ourselves based on little information, projections are rife, the playing out of the interior of peoples heads into some kind of believed solid reality is far easier to do in this virtual world because we can project our fears and beliefs straight onto them. Sure, that happens to an extent in RL, but by no means to the same degree. We can also avoid life by spending our free time staring at a screen doing all sorts of things which appear to be purposeful, and in part I’m sure they are, but quite possibly nowhere near as much as we’d like to think.

One of the things I’ve found quite fascinating from the start some 12 years ago is just how profoundly one can be affected by others you’ve never met, a mixed blessing in all sorts of ways. But I won’t ramble on endlessly, this may just be the start of something I take onto YT, not sure yet, but any feedback in terms of experiences, thoughts, feelings would be welcome.

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9 thoughts on “Virtual fantasies and online realities

  1. I feel pretty good about my online presence to date. I have never really felt concerned, and find the benefits of limitless and free expression to greatly outweigh any potential negatives. IRL can be much more restrictive especially if one lives a transitory and fast-paced lifestyle (<<me), where personal relationships can dissolve and revolve within days and old ties can be hundreds of miles away at best.
    Interesting topic though, and I will be interested to hear what you think about your own experience

    • While I’m glad you feel good about your online presence we have talked in the past about what you see perhaps not always being quite what is there. I think we’re all prone to that to a greater or lesser degree, especially when it comes to our desires, insecurities, fears and beliefs. But I agree that in many ways we have a greater opportunity to express ourselves. It can be a bit more of a bun fight because of course everyone else is in the same position. Much of the time all that’s going on is people reacting to their own reflection rather than what’s actually going on.

      It is an interesting topic. I’m not sure when (or even if) I’ll take this to video. I’ll see how I feel. Actually that’s one thing I really do love about the virtual world, you can do what you like when you like, even if others put you under pressure you can just walk away and there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it. lol

      • I tend not to make too much of a distinction between real life and the internet. The internet is real life, via wire. Consider this thought experiment: What if all the real people just disappeared one day, what would the internet become? Sure, all the web sites and videos would still be up, but in a completely static form. A snapshot in time: No updates, no comments, no news, no dialogue, no communication; nothing.

        I think the internet is more akin to real life than we give it credit for, and it’s us–real live people–that make it that way, the same way that we populate a bustling city. Take us away, the city remains. Everything looks about the same from afar but, upon closer inspection, something is alarmingly wrong.

        The reason for this analogy is that many people still think of the internet as this static thing that you visit the way you would a dusty archive room, and that’s possibly the perception that fuels the contrast between the internet experience and real life even today.

      • Well yes I’ve been meaning to ran-sack my channel and privatize various things, I just haven’t gotten around to looking at everything. What I see upon scrutiny is rarely so easy to disguise itself so I think once I look at it I’ll be able to know what is and isn’t good to keep lying around…right?
        I just hate the Victorian, it is something I battle in real life, because on the one hand I am always struggling to be me, not having it come naturally like so many seem to. But on the other hand I can’t let my letting me be me get out of control lol. So by feeling like I have to watch everythign I do or say online cuz “it never comes down” I just end up perpetuating my own stagnation. I’d rather be bold, fumble and embarass myself if I need to, and correct in the interim. If anything, I’ve learned that my public fumbles are good. The best, really.

  2. I am profoundly moved by reconciliations in human conflicts at all levels. The more impossible it seems, the more i am moved. This has led me to believe that in a *mother and child’ clincher of a way we are and every mortal thing is, connected. (would seem the allure of a *lover* is part of that parcel) All in all it is inherent and yet survival has required us to fight among ourselves for the paradoxical prize? I could go on, but human gestation has always been under way and, suffice it to say within your context today, the internet is a foray into and reawakening unto our birthright in all its glory. Deep down we already know that this status quo world, now including www, is also a drag! Spot on for me is to be reaching out for the sparks of reconciliation. Static discharge can of course wreck your computer! Mud is so terribly earthing 😉

    • I would agree with you Ed, and I think in part that’s why it’s so addictive and also so unbalancing. Without the unbalancing the scales cannot fall, and I have compassion for those who scream and lash out as they attempt to cling to their beliefs in one thing or another, or who project their desires and fantasies onto virtual figures who are creations of yet more fantasy. There is a thrashing, or should I say threshing around going on. How long the clinging will continue I know not, and realistically that doesn’t matter, though it seems a shame for the pain to go on too long, but perhaps we each have the choice as to how far we take the need to live imagined divided lives.

  3. Pete, while your analogy is of course true, there are numerous complexities and differences which make it psychologically very different from RL . In many ways it’s more ‘real’ because it streams straight into our brains without the apparent distinctions the body gives us. It’s in our homes, our minds, our hearts and we have to create filters to stop it invading us, if indeed we’re able (or wish) to do so at all. It allows us to have imaginary fantasies and nightmares about what is coming at us; the interior of our minds is projected onto everything we see in far more graphic and hard to resist ways, our underbelly is revealed in the ways we behave and we are naked unless we create contrivances of quite a different nature from the ones we might have in RL. If I were to continue your analogy I’d say that in order to survive it well we need a different kind of spacesuit to the one we might wear in our physical lives, or as Ed suggests, none at all.
    Delusions are far more rife here, and easier to maintain. Closeness is both incredibly easy to achieve yet can also prove impossible due to imagined projections about the person of interest or desire. Those who fear have to create themselves a suit of virtual armour, often consisting of rage, followers or fans, and artifice of various kinds. We encounter people we would never meet in our daily lives, age becomes an irrelevance, projections of misperceived desires are played out, sometimes with disasterous results. We can communicate with one another in a far more expansive way. We can share images, music, visual compositions of various kinds in ways impossible to replicate in RL which in many ways offers us more dimensions to use as tools for communication. Those, like at least three of us on this thread, who are somehwat hermit like, can maintain our preferred physical isolation, yet also communicate with the world, have quite significant impact on thousands of people. Woundings and pack mentality and the desire for popularity are far more primal here, in part due to the freedoms to be invisible should you so choose, so you have no need to own your venom, yet can take the pleasure in others destroyed or brought down. I could go on, in fact I could write a book about it. So yes, it’s made of and by us, and is not static, but it is not the same as RL. It can bring out both our deeper and more primal selves, and it can also help us to aim for our more lofty ideals, it can potentially unite us all if we could just stop seeing one another as separate, which online (and therefore by extrapolation anywhere) we simply are not.

  4. Keith, I enjoy your candour, your sometime fumbling and honest feeling your way through. I wish more did the same. I hate the fallacy so many try (and fail) to weave that they know everything, are on top of everything, are always right and infallible.

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