<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Abby. I met her in Chicago at the #20SBSummit, and this chick is raaaddddd!! She considers herself more of a nerd than a geek – but I think she’s just all shades of random and awesome. Oh and FTR, the TNTML stance on nerds versus geeks are that nerds are products of a genetic predisposition, and geeks are raised. BOOH-YAH!!! I only have one more thing left to say … HIT IT ABBY!!!</editorsnote>
When I was in junior high and high school, I spent my evenings in chat rooms, forums, ICQ, or AIM conversations. I would talk to my classmates, but oftentimes I would talk to people I didn’t know. I made some great friends, some of whom I still talk to, during that time. I was never alone, because I was always talking to someone. Always sharing a nerdy laugh or surfing the internet together. However, we referred to what we were doing offline as IRL activities and our offline friends as IRL friends.
Some people found this to be offensive, especially on forums, because IRL we are sitting at a computer exchanging words with other human beings. How is that not real? It denigrated our friendships and hobbies. Many a 2AM squabble erupted in the chat box while we discussed the parameters required to dictate what IRL truly meant. And although online we were highlighting the key points of our arguments, offline we were eating cheetos in our underwear.
IRL, for those who don’t know, means “in real life.” In real life, I was a student, I played video games, I hung out with my friends, I read books. Online I participated in forums, met new people, created and discussed digital art, and was most often represented by an anonymous avatar.
Now, things are different …
A meme, IRL. The internet is escaping.
We use our own pictures as avatars, putting our faces out there for everyone to see. Even in our Gmail inboxes we see the faces of the people contacting us. There is no anonymity. Social networks are no longer underground rooms on the Palace Chat. They are mainstream, things like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter. We are a digitally connected world.
The idea of separating your digital life from your offline life is nonexistent. IRL no longer exists.
The people we know on the internet are simply our friends, just like the people we know from work. Online shopping is not any different than IRL shopping (aside from the necessitation of pants), it’s all just shopping.
With the IRL distinction no longer being necessary, we must accept a full integration of online and offline. We are our online personas whether we are walking down the street or posting on a forum. We are searchable. We are defined by the amount of information we share over the world wide web. We are our Facebook profiles. We are our feelings in 150 words or less.
We are all through the looking glass.