OPINION

The "Real" World is Changing into the 24/7 Virtual Universe

October 02, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

A friend of mine had a terrible weekend. We were working at the office along with a few others but he had no e-mail access. The IT people in the office had switched off the wireless internet access as they normally do and here was this friend of mine from Costa Rica shivering and trembling like a man on heroin whose time for a fix has come and gone. After working for a whole day in the office constantly shifting positions to check if sitting next to an open window or door would make the elusive signals come drifting in, he decided to give up and work at it from the house of the friend at whose home we were staying. They had wireless too and he couldn’t wait to get back and catch up with e mail. At the door our hostess greeted us with a warm smile but some distressing news – some rabbits had nibbled at the underground cable and split it up and they were not expecting it to be repaired any time soon- certainly not over the weekend. My friend almost had spasms on the doorstep.

Another friend of mine is a moderator of several e-groups. When I recently asked him what was a good time to get him on line, he blandly replied that he was online 24/7. No he didn’t say that his company or office or firm was online 24/7 - that would have been perfectly understandable. On the contrary, what he explicitly said was that he was online all the time. That caught me pretty much off guard. I am online quite a bit of the time and people have often told me that they are amazed to get an answer from me to their mails at all hours of the day or the night but even I take a break. It seems that there actually exists a parallel universe out there which is entirely “virtual” and entirely “real” all at the same time. Increasingly, it seems that it is this virtual universe that people are increasingly learning to love and inhabit.

My dad lived in a 9 to 5 world. I probably live in a 12/12 worlds. Most of the “now generation” lives 24/7. even when they are supposedly sleeping, their computers are on, downloading stuff and their Blackberries and Communicators are” pushing” stuff in. Does that take a toll? I don’t know for sure. I sure can recall many nights going to bed bleary eyed after a many hour long chat with a friend with whom I simply didn’t know how to end a conversation because I knew this person in the “real world”.

Oh, yes, that word – “The Real World” The other day I received a friend request on Facebook from someone whose name I didn’t recognize. When I sent him a note to check where we had met he replied back saying well, we hadn’t actually met in the “Real World” but that he felt he kind of knew me because he read my blog somewhere. Since very few people I actually know in the normal real world are into blogs or read my blog as far as I can gather, for a while the universe of blog lovers who read and comment on my blog suddenly seemed much more real than the sensory world. I see my proper friends probably once a month if I am lucky, but I can scribble, scrap, and exchange notes all day and all night. Believe me, the world around us is changing, and in spite of being assured that being online 24/7 comes with the almost assured hangover at some point in the 24 hour day, the unreal and virtual world is becoming more real every day though with what consequences I don’t quite understand.

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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