Is the Internet Real?

Second question: If so, can we save it?

To the first, I think the question is rather odd. However, it is odd because it is assumed implicitly in the question we more commonly ask and the one that does not feel odd, or namely:

“Am I spending too much time online?”

This is a good question. This is an easy question. But, it is a question with an interesting implication and often not so directly but more so in how we think about it generally. I will propose to you that it is in our common sense thinking about it generally that we make the mistake. And, we can correct this mistake by using the same common sense thinking about our experience.

When we ruminate about our online experiences, we come to realize that we often contrast on-line experiences with their off-line counterparts. It is due to our natural inclination to antinomies (hot/cold, fast/slow, in/out). This dualistic way of thinking about on-versus-off line experience forms a strong paradigm that becomes a filter for how we think about either experience. In one way, this should immediately provide our intellect with a defeater for our mistake (keep reading, I’ll get there). Yet, in another way, the sharp contrast we make provides a “sort function” by which we allow ourselves to distinguish to the point of a false dichotomy. It is at the moment of the false dichotomy, the false antinomy, that the flaw of our common sense thinking is revealed.

What then in our experiences — both on-and-off-line — will provide the proper perspective to resist the false dichotomy? For starters and finishers, all of these experiences happen in reality! And, it is for that reason that I put forward to you that THE INTERNET IS REAL.

Duh.

Your REAL blog post provider

Seriously folks, I am typing this blog post sitting in a real chair, looking at a real computer, watching real characters pour onto a real screen at approximately 80wpm. You are also reading this in a state that should be obvious to you that is real. If the Internet is not real, if our experiences there do not constitute reality, if “virtual” really provides something sub-real, then I say that coloring a coloring page is not real. For if any of the aforementioned are not real, then when I sit down with a package of crayolas and disappear into the lines and counters of Tickle me Elmo armed with the color red, I am no longer living in the here and now. I have entered into that place where reality and fantasy are no longer distinguishable.

That’s dumb.

And yet I imagine that none of this post comes as a shock to you. You knew the Internet was real, but decided to read this because you thought the question was interesting. However, I’m not convinced that we think about the real-ness of the Internet quite like we should. To illustrate this point, let me describe to you what the world, off-line, might look like if it were lived like we act on-line:

  • 12% of all businesses would be strip clubs (% of websites that are porn sites)
  • 25% of every question someone would ask would be about sex (% of online searches for pornography in relationship to total searches)
  • 42.7% of people would ask to watch you or someone you know have sex with someone else (% of Internet users who watch pornography)
  • People would randomly mention “pedophile priest” in almost any conversation (go to any combox for evidence — I recently saw this in an ESPN article about football)
  • We would expect to see sexual predators lurking and openly soliciting children at almost any place young people congregate. (14% of children are solicited online)
  • A spy would be living in 50% of every home trying to steal important information from the homeowner or trying to cause harm to the home (% of computers infected with malware)

Let me submit to you a conclusion from this data: We don’t think the Internet is real so we pretend that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence. If we lived in the real world like we do “online”, the world would be a miserable place. But notice what I just did. I set up the false dichotomy!

In reality, the Internet is a part of our “real world”, and it is a fairly miserable place to live — the real world that is. You know the one with the Internet, not the one without the Internet. That was like so 1981.

So, can we save it?

What?

The Internet.

Answer: No

(for review, the first question’s answer is “yes”, the second’s is “no”)

Instead, we should think about it another way. We should realize that we are in need of saving, and we now find “us” more unregenerate than ever living in a place we call “online”. But, online isn’t a place. The desk that I’m sitting at and writing this post is a place. Topeka, Kansas is a place. People in places need saving.

Christ didn’t die for the Internet. He died for you and me even while we pretend — online — that what we do there does not in fact harm our eternal souls. However, there is no virtual heaven and hell. Only the off-line version.

So let’s use the Internet to keep people out of hell.

Hey, that might save the Internet after all.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Brent-A.-Stubbs-e1313148902233.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brent A. Stubbs is a father of four (+ 1 in heaven and 1 in the oven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic.[/author_info] [/author]

Brent Stubbs

Brent Stubbs

is a father of five (+ 1 in heaven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic. His Twitter handle is @2bcatholic. His favorite color is blue.

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4 thoughts on “Is the Internet Real?”

  1. I am so glad you tackled this subject. It came up the other day when I was reading Patriarch Kirill’s advice to Orthodox bloggers, in which he said “You speak very decisively – but what are your real works and your real deeds? What are your practical actions?” If we do not recognize the GOOD deeds we do online as very real and effective GOOD, we cannot recognize the BAD for what it is – degenerate and sinful. By making the internet “unreal” we make the very real pain caused by pornography and behavior like internet bullying an illusion, while at the same time making the encouragement, prayer, and community valued by many all over the world somehow fake.

    Nope, we shouldn’t get off the hook so easy. Everything that is real (a shocker revelation here) is REAL and everything real COUNTS. 😛 Thanks for the post!

    ♥ee

  2. Excellent observation! The internet can be used for good. I wouldn’t know a fraction of what I know about the Catholic Church if it didn’t exist. I’m able to connect to other Catholics and this helps me so much as I live in a predominantly Protestant area. So few people to relate to when it comes to my faith. Great post!

  3. THIS is insightful…I have often thought of the Internet as the information super-highway but complete with “road rage.” Sadly we think we can say or do things to people because they are not REAL to us–and we treat those we come in contact on this amazing technology as less than our brothers and sisters so often–and yes I am guilty too at times.

    But yes let us do our small parts to save it. It is worth saving, because the people behind the screens we contact are real humans, not screens or keyboards (well except in the case of bots of course!). Great post.

  4. The internet is NOT real because anyone can be whoever they SAY they are.
    The internet is NOT real because anyone can write something and call it a fact.
    The internet is NOT real because everything we are shown has been edited and filtered to fit the masses desires.
    The internet is NOT real because every response, movement and statement is pre thought out.
    The internet is NOT real, it is it’s own fantasy world where people prefer to live due to all the above reasons I listed.

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