Given The Internet, billions of people can now interact in real time without geographical barriers. “It’s a small world”, is given more merit. Normative use involves usernames/handles, and/or pseudonyms, and others may choose to use their own name. With relative anonymity, one can interact freely*. Maybe some users you interact with are people with whom you meet in a somewhat regular basis.
Introducing yourself in real life with someone you met on the internet by username is truly an interesting affair. Standard protocol to introductions with total strangers involve formalities which are not usually done in everyday affairs with familiar people.
“Hi, I’m temporalthought.”
In the internet, there are usually two forms of communication: synchronous and asynchronous. Asynchronous communications can come in the form of public forums, “comments” in social media 1, email, and other ways. An analogy would be like leaving messages on someone’s desk or leaving an announcement in a bulletin board. Synchronous and near-synchronous communications elicit some form of immediate feedback to other parties. A relative use case can involve short messages which are quick to compose and deliver, in contrast to asynchronous communications which are usually left to longer messages, and do not have expectations of an immediate reply.
In a stranger-to-stranger interaction with no previous contact, anything after an exchange of names and handshakes more often than not, bear an air of formality in the form of social nieceties like small talk (in some societies), or keeping physical distance while interacting. Starting with possibly a simple greeting, an introduction of real names, then associated handles (or the other way around), protocol is short-circuted as one’s previous interactions over the internet are bridged into real life, forming an immediate cushion of familiarity at the least, and certain hesitasions normally felt with unfamiliars may have lifted in the process.
There is then the restoration of humaneness and intimacy of interactions by being able to associate a virtual identity with an actual and natural human being. Discourse in real life can carry on to forums and discussions in forums can carry on to real life with little to no discontinuity in thought.
What real-time and near real-time communications supplement is (near) synchronous feedback of the other party, and when combined with personal association to the virtual identity, form a close enough approximation of a conversation being carried out in real life, much like the feeling of looking at a well composed photograph. Such interactions can spill over to personal interactions, again, with little to no need to fill in context.
References to posts in social media, for example, are treated in similar fashion to real events with associated emotional attahments. Internet chats done the night before are continued on to the next day in campus, with an idea of what happened. Texts are followed-up and are given the same weight as actual conversations. Interactions like these result to the inclusion of the virtual world in the everyday social sphere. However, let us not forget the beauty and simplicity of a truly personal interaction, and I happily encourage everyone to carry personal interactions whenever possible and practical.
*to an extent
Author’s note: the entry’s header photo is original work.
- Recent developments in code have managed to promote “comments” to being near-synchronous in nature, as in the case of Facebook. ↩