The Philosophy Of Friendship
I was leaving the office today and I got stuck into a conversation with a couple of colleagues about MMORPGs and virtual worlds and the like. We were mainly chatting about the blend between online and offline worlds and where reality starts and ends when one of them chipped in with a really interesting point – how can you say that online friendships aren’t “real” as they’re just a relationship that occurs within a different medium.
Interesting stuff. The example he gave was that interacting with someone face-to-face is just a single type of interaction and just as valid as communicating with someone over the phone, via online chat or through a computer game or virtual world. It’s all quite philosophical really but it’s the type of thing that I find absolute fascinating about online realities. It’s all changing the way we interact, socialise and work and I think it’s very exciting.
Second Life is a perfect example of how people essentially live through a virtual world – they can use it as a full time job, full time socialising and full time entertainment. Is this any less of a valid way to live your life? It would be pretty cliché to call these people geeks and encourage them to get a first life instead but, if you looked at it from a different perspective, one could argue that living a virtual life and having virtual friends is no less valid than having them in ‘real’ world as what we see and feel is just an illusion anyway (uh oh, I feel a Matrix moment coming on).
Personally, I believe that nothing can ultimately replace real life interaction as it’s just too easy to project a persona through a computer and not truly represent yourself. I don’t mean lying about who you are or what you look like, it’s more about the way you talk and interact. If you’re typing with someone, for instance, it’s very hard to convey emotion and, if you’re chatting to them over a mic, it’s impossible to see their body language. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m totally into having online friends and I’ve got loads that I consider to be close ones. What I mean though is that I’m not going to declare my undying love for someone I’ve never met in person.
Still, writing this, it does make me wonder a lot about the philosophy of friendship. I’ve got some good friends I met playing Everquest 2, who I grouped with every night and chatted to almost every day for years. Just because I haven’t met them in real life does that make that relationship any less valid or tangible? Does it make it any less meaningful than a friendship I have with a person in ‘real life’?
My head hurts.