How Virtual Do You Want Your World To Be?

virtual world

Do you escape reality in a virtual world?

The walls in my flat are too thin to drill or hammer a nail into it. Subsequently, I prop my 2 foot long mirror on top of a collection of unused telephone directories. This way I can actually see the top of my head when I look into the mirror. This is literally the only thing I use those telephone books for.

Times have changed drastically: I recall being 9 years old, flicking through the hefty yellow pages with my mother in search of a guitar teacher. We didn’t know anyone personally who could teach me and at that time it was the most logical way to look for the information we needed.  But if I needed that information now I wouldn’t even think to look in one of those directories, I’d go to the internet and search for it. Most people would.

We live in a far more virtual world than we did 15 years ago and we are constantly learning to navigate this new landscape in different and interesting ways. As with any change, for all the developments in the technological world, there are always going to be a few negatives. The ways of connecting with people have transformed so drastically through the internet and the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, hi5, (and the list goes on..), that some people believe it’s taking over and we are losing our grip on reality. Take these Massive Multiplayer Online games: Sometimes, people pay real money for virtual objects for the purpose of say, dressing their virtual imaginary friend in better clothes. Or, take the example of a partner who has been investing more time in a secret virtual relationship than the one that’s physically in front of them.

It’s probably fair to say that as with most things, the role of the virtual in our society should be one of balance and moderation. It’s true that if the majority of people concentrated on living in the ways outlined above, real life social skills would evaporate fairly quickly and people might start to forget their basic functions in the physical world, like eating. Maybe a bit extreme, but you get the picture!

But it’s also important to look at the flipside of these attitudes: Some people become so reactionary in response to these tides of new communication that they run the risk of overlooking how useful some of these new tools can be. A perfect example is online telephone directories. Like the old paper phone directories, they provide listings of hundreds of thousands of different contacts. From these websites, all a person has to do is enter the information they know and hit search: You can enter a person’s name, phone number, address and away we go.

In terms of speed and ease of use, it makes a lot more sense to use an online phone book than to trawl through the heavy paper version of the same thing. It means that the user can be more in control of the information they need, filter results they don’t need, and the listings can be updated at any time without requiring a regular new directory to be printed every year or so. If anything, this just becomes an unnecessary waste of ink and paper!

Many of these resources are now available in application form for mobile phones, and are changing the way we communicate, work and play. No-one wants a world of isolated individuals living through their computers and mobile phones, detached from the outside and incapable of holding a face to face conversation. But there are new tools in existence which when used in the right way, have the power to massively optimize and unite different communities by way of increased powers and methods of communication. Those that choose to dismiss outright the usefulness of these new innovations run the risk of falling behind and failing to take advantage of the world’s continually growing web of interconnectedness and resource-material.

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