Augmented Virtuality

Food for Thought

Another dinner cooked by my neighbor @cobacooks: Bún Chả and Mango & Blood Orange Salad. I posted the latter first because I thought it was more interesting, more like soup than salad. It was very nicely spiced.

I “met” @cobacooks on a Facebook Page for our neighborhood about a year ago and met her in person last week for the first time. The younger generations probably take this for granted but meeting someone virtually first wasn’t something that commonly happened before the Internet. I suppose some people did meet, for instance, through the classified ads in newspapers or snail mail exchange, but I can’t think of anyone I met that way. Meeting always took place “in real life” first and then was supplemented by other forms of communication like telephone and letters. I used to mail out my essays to friends and had no way of reaching anyone I didn’t already know.

Today, “real life” supplements the virtual life; the dominance has reversed. The term “augmented reality,” like in Pokemon Go, is a misnomer because reality is what augments virtuality. If anything, real life should be termed “augmented virtuality.” Meeting in person makes our social media experience more enjoyable, not the other way around because we spend far more time with the latter. My business is entirely on the Internet, so, I’ve never met most of my clients. Meeting them in person is helpful in making the relationships smoother but it’s not necessary.

This way of living is often criticized but even before the Internet, humans have always lived in virtuality. What makes life virtual is our language, not computers. When we see a tree outside, we identify what it is and believe we understood it. This way of understanding and knowing doesn’t require us to be there in person. A photograph would suffice. “Real life” has never been as necessary as we think it is. It has always been virtual. Real life without the double quotes is something we experienced only in the first few years of our lives before we acquired language which forever severed us from real life.