Sacrificing for a New World

Virtual reality wallpaper. Photo by wallpaperswide.com

Virtual reality has been a driving force in the technology world since the early 1990’s. It provides a way for users to be anything that their heart desires. With this amazing way to act out different fantasies online, what do users have to give up in order to continue living out these online fantasies? When do these users separate their online life from the “real world”? In Sherry Turkle’s Connected, but alone ,she stresses how technology is being allowed to take us to places we don’t want to go. We are allowing our online lives to be more important than our actual real lives. We have essentially allowed technology to disconnect us from having real world relationships.

The example of this disconnect that heavy usage of technology brings that Turkle gives is the heavy usage of cellphones in inappropriate settings. Cellphones are being used during corporate meetings, classrooms, at the dinner table, and even at funerals. People have become so accustomed to texting, e-mailing, and posting that they neglect having face to face conversations and relationships. “Why is it that we”, as Turkle says, “are expecting more from technology and less from each other?”

We are allowing technology to be a deciding factor in what we will and what we won’t sacrifice. In “The Dangers of Giving in to Virtual Reality” , Tim Henry uses an example of a college student and the effects his use of virtual reality had on him. The college student named Anothony Rosner became so involved in playing World of Warcraft that he nearly missed out on college. Rosner became so engrossed in his online life that he sacrificed an education that he was paying for.

Rosner’s case is extreme but it is also something that we commonly see from heavy users of this form of online entertainment. Players of virtual reality games make sacrifices in the real world in order to continue on in their virtual world. In “Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?”, Alexandra Alter shows a 58 year old man named Ric Hoogestraat. Ric has allowed his virtual marriage in the virtual world of Second Life to collide with his real world marriage. He spends hours at a time attending parties and managing businesses as a 25 year old handsome man in Second Life that he forgets to eat and sometimes even change his clothes. It’s not just dietary needs and good hygiene that he sacrifices while engaged in this virtual world, he also is sacrificing a relationship with his real world wife. He has neglected her need for communication and interaction within their martial home.

In Snow Crash , Neal Stephenson introduces Hiro Protagonist, who is a homeless man living in an abandoned 20-by-30 storage unit in California. Despite being homeless he spends days on end playing in the virtual world of the Metaverse. He has a job as an information uploader for the Library of Congress online, but he’s only seen one big pay day from that. When Protagonist could be out pounding the pavement looking for a real world job to help him out of his homeless situation, he is engaging in sword fights in the Metaverse. He is sacrificing having a steady job and an actual home for a virtual reality game.

Rosner, Hoogestraat, and Protagonist all allowed their online life to do just what Turkle said we are allowing it to do. These three men allowed technology to take them to places they didn’t want to go. With Rosner his excessive playing of World of Warcraft caused him to miss half of his college education. Hoogestrast’s virtual marriage in Second Life ultimately caused the demise of his real world marriage. Protagonist’s urge to want to play in the Metaverse resulted in him remaining homeless.

These men neglected having real world relationships with people because they had created a world that they had grown to love. A world that allowed them to escape every day real world hassles. While this world may have been perfect and they enjoyed acting out their fantasies, they ultimately had to pay a price for this enjoyment. We cannot allow playing virtual games, texting, or posting on social media to cause us to disconnect from the real world. We should take the unfortunate examples of these three men and do as Turkle said at the end of her video: “allow technology to bring you back to the real world.” A world where we can have face to face communication with others and build lasting relationships.

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