Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality
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- Saying we have successfully logged off, then, is an expression of seriously wishful thinking: Most of us are never truly offline anymore.
- What if the virtual world, rather than making us more bellicose, immature, and impulsive, is simply allowing our true instincts to return? Could the new you be, in a sense, more real than the real thing? Is e-personality more true to our core? Is virtualism, by turning the clock on civilization and the social contract, simply taking us back to something that might be called our “state of nature”?
- There are people who are remarkably adept at compartmentalizing. They may have an online life that is very different from their offline life but still manage to keep the two rather separate. For these individuals, it may be as simple as having a group of friends with whom they do certain things and another group of friends that they are equally comfortable with but with whom they socialize around completely different activities. In their case, the two spheres of existing—online and off-, virtual and real—remain neatly separate, like the proverbial oil and water. For the rest of us, however, this separation is no longer feasible, and we are living in something that resembles a cloudy emulsion, the existential equivalent of a well-shaken vinaigrette.
- Parents might also be feeling intimidated by a new technology that they know their kids are more facile with. Parents often rely on their children for tips on maintaining a Facebook page, editing a digital photograph, or downloading an iPhone app. This might make them feel unqualified when it comes to advising their children on the possible negatives associated with a technology that they do not fully master—“What do I know about Facebook?” To the extent that their technophobia may be causing them to doubt their instincts and whether they know what is best for their kids, they should reverse the reverse parenting going on.
- This book is not intended as a manifesto for renouncing the virtual world. It would be both naïve and futile to preach that—no one can imagine life without Google, and, even if it were possible, few people I know would be interested in living it.
- Virtualism, as enabled especially by the Internet, is a major signpost in our journey through history. There can be no doubting that it has opened windows and brought opportunity—for social connection and outreach, for liberation from anxiety and doubt, for financial and personal success, and for self-realization and fulfillment.