In “real” life, that is. And the “real” here might not be the best choice of word. Shall it be replaced with “physical” (or “physically existent”), as the proper antonym to “virtual” when we speak of our digital existence? “Virtual” does not mean not existent or not real.
We’re being told that online socializing is eroding our social skills and destroying physical relationships. That is mostly rue.
But here’s the million-dollar question: who says we’re supposed to be social in the old sense anymore? Is that still a need, beyond some obvious situations. What if this online socialization phenomenon is evolution and revolution, what if we are supposed to return to ourselves, and limit our physical social contact, finally free from the necessity of it?
What’s the actual value of physical socializing anyway, in this day and age? Other than ensuring people are kept in easily herded groups, under scrutiny and control – don’t take this as some sort crazy conspiracy theory, simply see it as a historically useful mechanism to keep societies in check, and rightfully so, creating and maintaining a stable foundation for progress.
All those hours alone, online, reading, or playing, or listening, in many cases learning a tremendous lot – why are we so hasty to think of them as bad? Sure, you won’t get out as much to, you know, have a binge drinking episode. You will no longer physically connect as much.
However, is that really something so irremediably bad? And are we right in making it such a definitive sentence? To many, those hours simply give untold happiness and joy, and a sense of purpose and fulfillment – how is that wrong?
It is commercially undesirable, certainly, having people spending hours in front of a screen reading or playing free stuff, instead of going out there and doing what’s best for the economy, i.e. buying stuff. But how is it actually bad for you, provided you lead an otherwise healthy life (sleep well, eat well, exercise, and avoid abusing your digital life, meaning you don’t spend ten hours a day digitally engaged)?
The Solarian society (in Asimov’s The Naked Sun) comes to mind – people living very individual lives, almost to the extreme of it, in a society organized to support optimal reproduction and care of the offspring, and that’s it. No other pretense or plain deceit, such as the idea of having to get together, in general.
The fact that introverts apparently make up a third to a half of the total human population (this is a huge proportion, considering the matter at hand), in a world that seems to be tailor-made for groups of extroverts, is also something to ponder. Susan Cain says it very well:
There is no debate whether our digital immersion may be detrimental for our physical societal living, but the question still stands: is that actually bad? And should we feel guilty or fear it?