This leads into a bigger, wider question though.
Are all the interactions and spaces in the digital realm merely an extension of what happens in the physical realm?
I would argue that they are. That is why they are real.
For example, most people are not at their most vulnerable when they interact with people in the digital realm. If they ever are it is through private messages, which no one but that individual will ever get to see.
Kind of like taking a friend aside and confiding in them about something, or asking their advice or support.
Social media is not a place we generally go to make ourselves vulnerable – and neither do we make ourselves vulnerable to all in the physical space, do we?
Even when things are at their blackest, when we see people socially we don’t tell them everything that’s going on in our lives, we don’t share our most vulnerable side with them.
When I went to the pub after my Mum died, some of those at the pub didn’t know me well – some did and those I confided in and spoke to – but with those that didn’t I didn’t really share much of what was happening. I didn’t talk about how I was feeling or make myself vulnerable.
It’s the same in the digital realm. It’s essentially the same self. Many argue that the digital realm is virtual, it’s not real (there is a virtual realm, but it’s not online – more on that another time) – but paradoxically, I think that social media has made the physical self more real.
It has distinguished the self we have always presented to the world – both the social self and our vulnerable side – from our physical bodies in a very obvious, and very real way. It is in many ways an extension of our physical bodies. It allows us to extend our influence, our social network – or in the case of corporations, our brand – to a far wider audience.
If it wasn’t for the internet, virtually no one would get to read what I write. But the internet has allowed me to extend my thoughts and reflections, and my gift of writing, to the world. I get people from India and Iceland, places I’ve never been and people I’ve never met, reading my work and hopefully being blessed by it.
That would never have been able to happen without the digital realm.
The other side of this is, of course, this it exposed a part of ourselves which, although known beforehand, wasn’t seen so distinctly. Our online profile simply distinguishes one dimension of who we are from the rest of us.
In a way that allows us to look at ourselves in many ways. We are able to look on a side of ourselves and yet be separate from it.
Which can sometimes be quite scary.
Sometimes we see things we never knew about ourselves which we don’t like, but never knew were there.
So the internet, in many ways, has made part of ourselves even more real than ever before.
The question is, as social media develops, how much more of ourselves will we begin to see in the digital realm?
How much more of ourselves will we be able to share, and choose to share?
We can only wait and see.
Do you believe the digital realm to merely be an extension of our physical self?
How vulnerable are you and should you be online?
How do you think social media is going to develop and allow us to share more of ourselves?
Is it really possible to argue the digital realm isn’t real when it’s clear that the self projected in our online profile is merely a digital reflection of a self that is real?
James Prescott is a writer & creative exploring social media & the messy but divine journey of life. He blogs regularly at James Prescott.co.uk & is a regular guest blogger at bigbible.org.uk and other sites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.