When I was a mere tyke on the Internet, no one really knew if you were a dog. Your only identity was a screen name. If you knew or had a friend who knew the arcane ways of HTML you could build a home page but that was as close as you could get to a human identity on the web. The only way to meet new people online was via mutual friends or to bump into them by sheer chance. Human interaction was still primarily based in real life (now known as IRL for those of you who may have forgotten), which referred to actually face-to-face interaction in the physical plane.
I have web pages and a presence on UseNet news groups. I post on message boards. I yack on Skype and hang out on Pal Talk. I tweet and twitpic on Twitter, DJ on Blip.fm and, of course, blog here on WordPress. I have maps on Platial, get pinged by Technorati, comment on the news on Digg and share bookmarks on Delic.io.us. I IM, PM and DM. And today, after months of resisting, I finally gave into peer pressure as well as curiosity and started a Facebook page.
I was also hit with the startling reality that “in real life” no longer refers to our meat space existence. Our real lives take place online.
Sure we do things in the physical realm. We have to since we are physical beings. We visit places, eat at restaurants, attend concerts, go to school and work there. However, in our always connected online world, these things have to be translated into electronic form. Unless we tweet about them, upload a pic, transmit the GPS coordinates where they happened, text our BFF , express how we feel in our blog and look for other people who enjoyed the Lukewarm Sushi Festival in our network, the things we experience may as well not have happened.
This is not to day we don’t live part, maybe the bigger part, of our lives online. We watch TV and movies, play games, talk to our friends and even have parties online. There are charitable events and cyber-orgies. Even our fantasy lives are digitized with online games like World of Warcraft. For those who have abandoned all pretense, there is Second Life.
Not only have our lives moved online, our identities have too. Long gone are the days of people on the internet not knowing if you are a dog. Your dog is on the internet. Everything we do online requires and a profile. This profiles are chock full of information about us from our pics to what music we like to where we work and what we do. I can say I’m Bob Smith and that means nothing unless you have met me. But if I say I am StudMuffin23 on Facebook, with a couple of clicks we are friends and instantly part of each other’s lives.
Take you time machine back ten years and talk to someone about identity theft. They would laugh at the notion. What, are you going to steal someone’s driver’s license and glue their face over your own? Now what you look like and have in your pocket are meaningless. If someone gains your user ID and password they, for all intents and purposes, become you. Let them grab your social security number and they own your life.
I suppose the time is long past as to argue whether this migration of our lives to a collection of ones and zeroes is good or bad. It’s happening. Everything will never move to cyberspace. That is, until someone figures out how to actually have e-sex.