The Internet: IT’S MADE OF PEOPLE

People often toss around the idea that the internet is “not real life,” as though this thing — made by people to allow those people to share and interact with other people — is just the playtime before more serious business. The real business.

I object.

Here are some things that happen on the internet:

  • People make friends.
  • People order pizzas.
  • People go to school.
  • People find love.
  • People work.
  • People Amazon Prime themselves things they could easily pick up at the drugstore down the street, and they totally would just walk over there this afternoon if it weren’t raining.
  • People connect.
  • People create.

Here are some other things that happen on the internet:

  • People lose friends and family.
  • People lose jobs.
  • People are bullied and mocked.
  • People are threatened and forced from their homes.

All of these things really happen between real people. (Really.) They are therefore, by definition, happening “in real life.” When you claim that the internet is “not real life,” you diminish all of these very real experiences. For the positive ones, that just sad; for the negative ones, it’s dangerous.

Humans are connecting. Interacting. Learning. Supporting themselves. Ordering pad thai.* Sometimes, these things happen over a series of tubes, sometimes over a cup of coffee. Claiming one is more real than the other is disrespectful to the people having those experiences. To us. When you say the internet is “not real,” you diminish the deep bond of the couple that live on opposite sides of the world and met on a message board — their relationship is less-than. You diminish the man furthering his education and professional development with online courses — his efforts are less-than. You diminish the woman receiving rape threats on Twitter — those threats are less-than — and you diminish the culpability of the very real person who made those threats. It’s not a real threat. It’s just the internet.

If you want to support that conception of the internet, go right ahead. But first ask: do that couple, that man, or that woman feel a lesser degree of love? Of accomplishment? Of fear?

We could pontificate about the attributes of “realness” until the conversation comes to an abrupt end when we all get sucked into our own navels, or we could just decide that any place where human relationships, education, and livelihoods blossom is a real place. We can do that because not only did we make the internet, we made the language we use to talk about it. We define. We decide. That power-slash-responsibility is not one I’m about to abdicate. “It’s just the internet…” Okay, except we are the internet. It’s “just” us.

It is possible that all of life is just an illusion; a false front erected by an evil demon, as Descartes once mused before concluding otherwise. Maybe the internet itself is an evil demon; that would certainly explain the popularity of child porn rings and Farmville. But until I have proof of that, I’m going to behave as thought it is, y’know, real. That’s the only experience I have, and I refuse to call it less than that. Last I checked, the opposite of “real” is “fake.”

Without people, there’s no internet, not the way we know it. There’s just a bunch of servers, sitting in a room somewhere, wondering when the people are going to come along to upload cat GIFs.

TL;DR: Are you alive? Is something happening? Then it’s happening IRL. Full stop.**

*Yes, I order a lot of take out on the internet. You tell me you wouldn’t do the same, if your city had a bakery thatΒ would bring you hot, fresh cookies and a glass of milk when you asked them to via the internet.

**Holy crap, pontificating about the internet really sends my punctuation usage to a whole ‘nother level of excess.

156 Comments

  1. Awesome post! Internet has brought the world together and close. It provides us so much things. The best thing I like about internet is that we can talk to our family members who are far away from us and even we can have video chat with them. One I was circling around youtube and I came towards an advertisement that was showing a man wanted to attend his best friend’s wedding but his work did’nt let him go so he told his friend to keep his laptop in front at hall and turn on the Skype I’ll watch that online!!! WOW! now even we can attend marriages ONLINE. Thanks to Internet!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I completely agree with you. Internet. It’s the real thing, especially in the world we are living today. Businesses. Companies. Estates. Relationships. Everything runs through and using the Internet.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Insightful. Thanks for articulating a bunch of obvious but often ignored points on the presence of the Internet in our lives. It’s here, and not going away. It’s an avenue for communication, and all that means. And it’s punctuated well πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I agree with @impossiblebebong. If a person experiences something bad/good that can eventually change his life, for that person the internet is very real. For example internet celebrities make a living from the internet. Some people find their soul mates online. For these people the internet is a real real thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Reblogged this on where we are and commented:
    Just yesterday, a couple of my co-workers at the high school where I work were taking about how one of our students only had friends online and that it was a “fantasy world.” They both thought that the student should spend less time online. While I do think that it’s important for people to learn how to make friends with people they can hang out with in person, I also think that the Internet can provide loners with connections – both deep and shallow – that they might not have “in real life.” We cannot diminish these relationships just because they are built online.

    I suggested all of this in my conversation with my co-workers and ultimately, we agreed that it would be better to encourage the kid to join groups of other like-minded kids so that xe can extend these online friendships into in person connections.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. This is so true! The internet is a different form of communication, media, dating, and even shopping. But like you said, the internet is made up of people. People are behind those computer screens. While some people use the internet for evil, others use it for good.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Interesting argument… I suppose I still see the internet as fake because it’s so easy to contrive a false-perceptions of yourself… People say and do things they would not have to courage to do face to face… I don’t know if it makes it and more/less real, but I do know it tends to be an exaggeration of what’s real..

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Love this. I have to admit I’m guilty of talking about “Real life” and “internet”. But the Internet is just a means of communication and gathering. Important things happen on the internet. I should know this, as a person who works in social media. The conversations on the internet can have real impact. The Internet isn’t separate from us, it’s a part of us now…It’s a part of everything we do. And we should embrace that, not criticize it! Thanks for making me think this Saturday afternoon.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I make money online, sitting in my pajamas. lol I love the internet, love how it can connect us with strangers across the big blue pond and love how we can become friends just through a computer connected online. My business is all about relationships and helping people reach their full potential. The internet has definitely connected me to more people I can help.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I agree with you. The negative things on the internet are real. Cyber-bullying is real. Yet unfortunately often time, when people see it online, they tend to just ignore it and do nothing to help those being bullied on the internet. It’s more convenient that way. There are too many silent observers. If you see bullying and you do nothing, it’s silent encouragement.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Times are definitely changing. If I knew back in my MySpace & Blogger blogging days what I know now I’d have a budding writing career built off of years of Internet branding like my other friends who stayed committed to the www through and through. We have been some of the first to learn and entirely new innovative culture so it’s still trial and error. I worry about meme’s horribly destroying & distorting history when my great grand children just want a pic of Beyonce un-photoshopped… It’s very real & however I’ve had to learn how to navigate each space I’ve created to fulfill a different purposes…I’ve made great connections with people I’ve known solely via the net for over 10 yrs and have had knock down drag out debates also…seems like the real world to me

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I love this – I like to think of the Internet often (quite fondly) as an ever-present parallel universe. Its real, often a different kind of real from real-real or at least it feels that way so you act differently or are perceived differently through what is a very subjective lens of all users. And other gobbledegook. Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I am excited someone covered this topic. The internet is a place that is rich with culture, knowledge, and people when we use it for more than a snooping tool. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Internet is a weapon. We are the beholder. Discretion, justice, condemn, appreciate- its all a matter of choice.
    The web has entangled culture and traditions, thoughts and ideas and has created a virtual global village. It is true. We, the homo sapiens. We, the real. Have created it

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Love this! Extremely interesting. I would TOTALLY order everything over the internet: people wouldn’t appreciate pyjama bottoms on Wednesday afternoons and messy buns in the ‘real’ world. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

  16. When I first learned of the internet, it buoyed my hope. I thought, “you know, maybe the world-wide connectivity will help bring people together. If we start expanding our understanding of the world (and people who we might not normally come in contact with), then maybe it’s the precursor to ending war … I mean, its awful hard to go to war against people you know, right?

    Looking back over 20 years later, I realize how naive that was. I know my perspective is colored by my depression and the extremely pessimistic view I have on things, but I have to say, you’re right in seeing the internet as merely an extension of “reality”. The vast majority of what I see is a mere extension of our own biases, materialism, ignorance and, in too many cases, hate.

    We can just reach more people with it now.

    But that’s me.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Being a ghost writer for ecommerce clients, to reading your post here…there is a shift in the way I am looking at the world now, real shift. And now I am wondering if this new-found perception of internet would interfere with my so-called “real world” writing for the so-called “virtual world”.
    Anyway, it is thought provoking. Worthy of the Freshly Pressed title.
    In my next post on globalization and shrinking world, I think I am going to quote your blog ! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I really enjoyed your post. I never quite thought of the Internet that way, but yes, I’ve heard many people diminish the power and reliability of the Internet, but it was this real Internet which caused me to gain contact with 3 of my siblings, something that may never have happened otherwise. Thx for posting.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Interesting. The internet is people with their guard down. We don’t need to be fearful that what we say will result in physical confrontation so we are significantly more likely to say it. We can find groups of people who agree with us and confirm our opinions regardless of the actual truth of the matter. The internet takes away a lot of the social responsibility but also makes people more open about what they think and feel. I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I used to say this to my then-young-teen daughter, for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t “on” the internet and it scared me. Deux, I was concerned that she would be exploited by people who were not what they seemed to be.

    Obviously the first fear has gone away, but I still think we have to be extra cautious with online relationships. It’s easy enough to be fooled by someone who is standing right in front of you; how much easier is it when they control all the information you are allowed to get?

    Jeez, Louise I sound like a paranoid old fart.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. The stigma of living on and through the Internet has diminished so much over the last 10 years, I remember being embarrassed of the friendships I made in AOL chat all those years ago and now some of the closest friendships I have are online. Just the right level of interaction and commitment to social endeavours for me thank you very much. I’m not a fan of physical proximity.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. The internet is the greatest liberator of the people sense the invention of gun powder and the printing press. Never before have people been able so freely express their views, or share ideas. The internet allows people a voice, gives people a chance to make their opinions known.

    Good post

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I love this post. The Internet is made up of real people from all walks of life. I met my wife on the Internet. She help me become more creative. We created a life on the Internet. The Internet is as real as you and I. Thank you for a great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Gave me something to think about, though I do not agree that the Internet is a ‘place.’ It is. Multimedia from of communication and exchange of information and commerce, but it is not real in my view as the author seems to contend.

    And it’s not ‘made of people’ but of servers and ‘wires’ and other hardware me software. The people part in it seems to need a new construct, and new words to describe it.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Who doesn’t remember growing up and spending hours on the phone in middle school or high school talking to girls in their class and friends about what was going on over the weekend. Before texting even was a thing and cell phones were around. If you saw a cell phone it was as big as a lunch box and only worked with an antenna on top of your car. The Internet was around and a useful tool but your interaction with the world was much more limited. There were chat room, aol and msn messenger. By the way is where you would solve all your friends problems by night and by morning seeing all your friends and their real problems.

    That is what real is. Real relationships, real happenings, and real people.

    Don’t the people you really love and are real friends people you call, touch, and live? That is real. Not some girl I went to school with and now all I see is her baby’s pictures online. And when I finally do run into her, in the real world, I dip down the other isle. Not because I do not like her because I know too much of her life but haven’t had the decency to say hi in the past ten years.

    There are people on the other side of the Internet, I’m speaking out to them now, I indulge and love into the information and stories of others. I do love the Internet for my many needs. “And as it lies, the path we live shall move forth, whether it be out of the forest, in to the city and on skyscrapers.” Technology and the ways it changes us will only keep evolving. It’s that we don’t loose ourself in it and still grasp what is real in life. If I die tomorrow, to all of you my username is gone. To people I’ve touched, I only hope they take a moment to think of me.

    The Internet opens us up to the entire world now. Use it to explore, I urge you but what are the mountains through the Internet until you really experience them.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I was bullied over the Internet for 2 years. Worst thing to ever experience, yet I totally agree with you. We are the Internet and we make it what we want. I have also found love over the Internet for a year. I believe the Internet can be a cruel yet fascinating place for EVERYONE! Without the Internet. we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. The opportunities abound on the Internet; however, there is also real danger the Internet provides through anonymity. People’s online personas can differ greatly from the person you meet on the street. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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