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Decoding the virtual connect

Illustration: SREEJITHRKUMAR

Illustration: SREEJITHRKUMAR  

Virtual space gives you dynamism, but personality traits such as humour can only come out in open discussions

The more time we spend interconnected via a myriad of devices, the less time we have left to develop true friendships in the real world.

— Alex Merritt

Once upon a time, great conversation happened over coffee gatherings and at hangouts. But nowadays, the typical ice-breaker seems to be a short message dispatched through gadgets. All of us must have expedited our relationships through social networking media or instant messaging platforms. Yeah, making friends, finding people with the same interests and hence coming up with a whole virtual society of our own. We all have our virtual avatars, without even realising it. New research on traditional anthropology says we have turned into a new species, the evolution of homo sapiens to new-age cyborgs. But don’t drive your brains thinking that you may be the new-age Terminator. That, unfortunately, is not the case; rather, we all move with a technical wormhole in our pockets every day. It ultimately sounds interesting that we have created a whole new space in those tiny gadgets in our hands.

“Virtuality” has suddenly replaced reality, giving us an opportunity to create alter-images for ourselves without our even realising it. Certainly, the crux of the whole ball game is our earnest desire to bond. As human beings we always crave for attention and care. In reality, our incapability to start a conversation motivates us to have an hour-long conversation even with strangers. Clinging to this particular argument, it makes the whole thing appear good, as nothing seems wrong in connecting with like-minded people and expanding our horizons. It appears to be a comparatively better option rather than dealing with the real-time crisis of talking to people and compromising on agreeing upon their oddities and at last finding ourselves in awkward and vulnerable positions. It is an easy way out and hence a more comfortable way than to have real-time face-to-face conversations with people you don’t like, and helps one to eliminate artificial barriers of looks, social and financial status, organisational hierarchy and so on. An ideal environment that we envisage.

But honestly it is not a viable option because it seems to be an escapist route, and our vulnerability cannot be used as an excuse. Our affinity to such a set-up is because of the freedom it gives to have a predomination over one’s words and thoughts. It is a kind of remoulding of a second self. This second chance is not available in real-time consultations when we may have to make remarks with no possibility of erasure. The norms of behaviour in cyberspace might be very different from the norms in real life. I am intrigued by the fact that we have created a culture where people in the same place who meet each other daily may not at all engage in small talk or share sweet nothings, but would rather ignore and chat entirely through cyberspace. There are people who may be introverted and may experience initial hiccups in starting a conversation, but combating and facing it in real life can only lead to self-improvisation. However, in other instances, if people present themselves differently, and those who are interacting are not aware that the individual is altering their personality, someone could get emotionally hurt.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to present yourself as someone else on the Internet, since the other person cannot see or hear you. In addition, the typed words on the screen that represent someone else can be somewhat dehumanising. Even nice people can act immorally on the Internet, when they forget that they are not communicating with a computer but another human being with real thoughts and feelings, or vice versa.

The only way out of such a situation is to use utmost discretion while engaging online. Always following the goldilocks principle, staying away from the extremities. Never to get too comforted by its aura and forget the reality. Virtual space gives you dynamism, but it is ephemeral and bogus. One’s real personality traits, and sarcasm and offbeat humour, can only come out in open discussions. Moreover it eliminates chances of miscommunication. Being an archangel behind the confines of your virtual wall will do no good if you are Lucifer in real life. The web should not be given the convenience to suck in your soul. Embracing solitude is better than being in secluded connect.

shreya.davis1996@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:33:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/open-page-shreya-davisdecoding-the-virtual-connect/article8352976.ece

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