Friday, 15 June 2012

Virtual Reality versus The Real Thing

Today I heard an ageing rock/pop performer lamenting the fact that 'social media' is occupying so much of our time.  He said "We spend our lives in virtual reality, while our bodies slump in a chair waiting for our minds to come back".

It struck me quite forcibly as being only too true and, set me wondering just why this particular activity has taken over the world.

For some, I'm sure, it is the lure of the next new gadget, toy, piece of technology.  For some it is a way of contacting shadowy people who would never normally come their way.  For others, myself included it is a means of printing my thoughts and the events of an ordinary day, in a manner which hopefully, will gain a response - if you like, a way of side-stepping loneliness.

But there is another, slightly more worrying reason which appears to be a means of  avoiding real life while playing at it on a tiny hand-held gadget.

In fact so-called social media is in fact exactly the opposite, a completely anti-social habit forming way of ensuring that the fleet-fingered/thumbed practitioners remain in splendid isolation.

Yesterday, my stepdaughter and step-grandson visited me (the first time for about 10 months), because the grandson is briefly on R and R from Afghanistan and he is due back this weekend.

He is a technological whiz and spent about a half an hour setting up some of the functions I wanted on my IPad for me.  He doesn't have to think when asked to do something, he just knows how, and on the rare occasions when asked for something he hasn't encountered before, can work it out in a couple of minutes.

I am very grateful for his help (and have been reading aFREE book this morning), but I am beginning to wonder whether it is a good idea.

I was delighted to own such a 21st Century piece of equipment since I am very much a 20th Century piece.
But and it is a serious concern, should I ever become truly competent will it in fact begin to take the place of real life.

Simon's life is all too real, and for him, it is probably a way of staying sane in a mad world, so I could never begrudge him his collection of gadgets, but at what stage does reality bow out?

As he drove off in his Ford Focus SR (another of his passions) I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to the gadget addicts should their toys suddenly become inoperable overnight.  Whatever would they put in their place?


  1. Ray, I do hope you continue to use the gadgets that you can get your hands on and use. Your reasons are very similar to my own. I totally agree though that for some they take over and become so very anti-social - the main reason why I refuse to get a smart phone (though now I am not working finance is an issue there as well!).

  2. Not just me then Jane? Good, I do sometimes wonder if my planet is a bit further from the sun than most.

  3. It is easy to get sucked into it all, isn't it? (Thus spake the one who's wasted precious moments in techie agonising these past few days! ). What worries me, is the increasing exclusion of those people who cannot or who chose not to engage in all this. Our post grad son is quite unusual in that he's chosen not to get a new laptop after his last gave up on him, and doesn't have a smartphone. He uses library pcs for his dissertation work. He's not at all anti-technology and social media, quite the opposite, but I suspect he's more savvy than most about the sheer amount of time and resources that can be sucked from one, and is very aware of the importance of balance. I'm proud of him.

  4. Good for him, Greenpatches. Sounds as though he has worked out a good balance for himself.
    I think you are right about whole swathes of the population being excluded (for a variety of reasons), because of their unfamiliarity with ever-shifting technology.
    I had never touched a computer until 2010 and am totally at a loss to understand the 'language' never mind the techniques, of most gadgets. To say, "well I've managed without for .......years" is just not going to be good enough pretty soon.
    Heaven help the technically marginalised!

  5. a few years ago the son on a friend of mine tragically died at the age of 30 and, for the last few years of life, social media had been his main connection with the world. When my friend posted on his various social networking site about his death, funeral etc she was amazed at the response she received from total strangers (to her) and people that her son only knew via social networking sites. They spoke of his kindness, how he had been there for them (virtually)during difficult times in their lives etc etc etc and some even came to this funeral - so I suppose there is always pros and cons to everything.

  6. I couldn't agree more Judith, but, as I have said so many times, for me it is a (limited) life-line. Limited by my lack of expertise, and also to a degree, by my unwillingness to fully embrace all the forms of cyber contact. I am not and will not ever be, on facebook for instance, but do appreciate how much useful contact the little I can do has brought me.
    I am grateful for every comment I receive and glad to have some contact, however tenuous, with a wide group of cyber friends.

  7. Howdy Ray, I resisted blogs, FB etc etc for a long time; just developing a website for my work. But since I decided to check it out and go for it last November I have been amazed at the people I have been connected to. Some have now become really deep and heartfelt friends and we talk about the things that matter to me most in a way i have not been able to face to face with those who are around me on a daily basis.
    I think the trouble with this technology is not finding the balance and allowing ti to take over the day. I have to decide what I am going to do on the computer each day and then stick to it. If I leave it on it keeps drawing me to do more things.
    Looking forward to a quiet morning in St. Mary's tomorrow and hope you will have coffee with me. I have a drawing of St. Francis to show you.

  8. Hi Constantina. I will be there but later than usual. Looking forward to seeing your ideas for the St. Francis.
    You're right of course, finding the balance, both in using social media and in life is the all-important key.

    Try to hang on for coffee until I get back from the dentist. (assuming I do of course).