It’s been a while that I’ve felt how unnatural our current existence is. Maybe, this is merely because I grew up in a world not dominated by the Internet. Computers, yes—back when they were still housed in large boxes. If you needed to enter data into them, you had to use punched cards that were then fed into card readers several times the size of a desktop computer. I was a college student then.
By the time I had a regular job, after graduate school, much had already changed. We were doing our work on desktop computers. The large system computer was still there but, by then, it merely served as storage because the desktops did not have much local memory. Of course, that changed too.
At the turn of the century, my office was the laptop I carried around and I talked to my project staff and we sent files back and forth via email. We hardly met face-to-face anymore. I think that was when my virtual life seriously began.
For today’s young people, virtual starts as soon as they come in contact with a computer, a tablet, or a cell phone, maybe even before they have a full set of teeth. Perhaps, to them, it doesn’t feel as surreal as it does to me. Still, imagine yourself: your eyes glued to that screen—it doesn’t matter what size it is, that on a smartphone or one of those large screens on a desktop—it informs you, teaches you, entertains you; you read from it, talk to it, probably even make love to it. The only relationship you can’t have with it is that associated with survival. Sure, you can salivate looking at a dish of ice cream on the screen but you still have to trudge to the refrigerator to fill that void in your gut or relieve that parched discomfort in your throat.
Will a time come when we forget how people look or feel anymore because most of our needs are met through some device that delivers a virtual experience? I shudder at the thought. But I hope our humanity saves us and that growing phenomenon known as the virtual world does not breed out of us the need to connect and feel the warmth of a living, breathing human being.
How exciting can it be really to just exist as an avatar in a made-up world where everything about being human is simulated?