Thought Starters

IRL: Is IN REAL LIFE all that its cracked up to be?

I may be showing my age by asking “Is it real or is it Memorex?”

Do you remember the Maxell ad campaign?

There’s a guy sitting in a Le Corbusier lounger in front of a set of speakers; as the music starts his lamp and scarf start to fly out behind him giving the sense that the sound is incredibly loud. In an age where digital media was nothing but a future dream, it creates such an impression of accuracy, clarity and precision; you feel like the orchestra is there with you.

It was meant to feel real.

In our accelerated world the need for access to instantaneous information seems to have us all relying so heavily on technology to live our lives. We sit at our desks working on a computer or we have numerous devices to keep us connected to our clients, colleagues and friends. It seems to be the norm that our main form of communication is digital; we interact in our business and personal lives virtually.

“Come on”, you say, “I don’t do that”……or do you?

Stop, take inventory. So, what do you think?

Hey, I’m no different.

I don’t consider myself an innovator or even an early adopter when it comes to technology but here I am communicating regularly through a virtual world.

How much time do you make in your day for IRL personal interaction?

How much more difficult is it to write a letter than talk on the phone?


How much easier is it to get your point across having a face to face conversation than over an email exchange?

When is it more productive to avoid personal contact or when can such avoidance benefit your success?

I wonder if there is a little silver lining in that one {wink}.

With the unlimited opportunities to effectively manage your life using the many digital tools available to you; when and how you choose to interact on a real level is becoming more and more selective and in some ways, strategic. How do you decide when you need to be present? How and when does that affect your ability to succeed? Can something as simple as a smile or a hug be the type of communication that helps you succeed the same way a simple thank you gets you a long way in a relationship? Has the personal touch been diluted by technology? Has a handshake, looking someone in the eye or reading body language been replaced by the stimulus of emotion from a piece of digital content? Is one more effective than the other? Is one better or worse? Is one more strategic than the other?

How do you place value on personal interaction through human contact? Technology has made the world virtually flat {groan} but has also given us the tools to keep current on the lives of our colleagues and friends no matter how close or far they may be.

When you do see your friends and colleagues, is the experience enhanced by the digital relationship you have?

We can only continue to try both and see.

Over to you: What value do you place on your IRL relationships over your digital ones?

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This post, in its original format, first appeared on on theviewfromhere on June 20, 2011 .




About this Author: Ralph Dopping (199 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday:


Hi Ralph,


I work out of a remote office with nothing more than the dog to keep me company. Skype and G+ hangouts along with the occasional lunch meeting go a long way to keeping that personal touch going. There is no replacement for it.

Latest blog post: Writers Write Right Part 2


I like the fact that technology has bought my friends closer. I can keep in touch with people that are miles apart. But nothing beats real life friendship; just like no matter how much you talk over your friend on the phone, there is nothing that beats the feeling of meeting them in person. 


I have met lovely people online and I love the fact that it has made the world smaller; but yes, I really can't hug my computer and feel happy about it - not all time! ;)


I ain't saying online relationships aren't meaningful; but nothing is "better" than a creepy guy trying to hug everyone at the social event (cough, @bdorman264 , cough)


It is very easy to become lazy because of the conveniences technology provides. Sometimes you just have to get your lazy ass from behind the desk and go and actually talk with someone.


The good thing about my job is I see 99% of my customers at their place of business. Not only do I have to get away from the desk, I'm out and about in the 'real' world. There's actually some pretty cool stuff going on out there.........:). 


Hugging my computer isn't quite the same as hugging the lovely ladies at a social event........and no, I'm not the creepy old guy; everybody still loves Billy...........

Vidya Sury
Vidya Sury

Lovely post, Ralph. I am happy to say that I am blessed with a bigger offline life than online. I love the internet but only to a point. I need the computer to work (ah, the joys of freelancing and telecommute). But I am happiest when face to face, physically traveling to places, tasting, savoring, feeling, touching - so very fulfilling. 


I also love that technology allows us to connect with people - and with Skype, the interactions are so much more enhanced. I am thrilled how the borders dissolve with video talk - as exciting as having a visitor home, only sadly, one has to bring one's own refreshments :D Still, so convenient.


I often think, what if all this technology disappeared? I mean, I got my first computer when I was 37 - so it does not seem as scary as it might be.


There's one thing I long for, though. Teleportation. :-)


Hugs - I am going to be thinking of this post!




Great post - absolutely love this. And it's a double edged sword isn't it? I've met so many incredible people through the online world - and developed very deep relationships with many of them - but truth be told when you *finally* do meet in real life, something changes - it really does deepen somehow. I don't think technology has hampered real relationships - in fact, I am "friends" with people all over the world that, in another time, I would never have - SHOULD never have - met (which does give me the creeps when I think too hard about it to be honest). But I value those friendships - and I look forward to the day that I can meet my "new" friends IRL in Portugal and Australia and Norway and England. 



Ralph, I tend to agree with Danny from the standpoint of not placing a different "value" on digital vs. "IRL" relationships. To me, they are both REAL relationships, the difference is simply the communication channel. In many cases, many of my real-life relationships are maintained via the digital channel simply because geography necessitates it. The value of the relationship - I believe - is independent of its primary communication channel.


However, you also ask, "Has the personal touch been diluted by technology?" To this, I say, "Absolutely." Admittedly, I believe this is likely due to my lens, my experience. Handwritten notes, firm handshakes and warm embraces, eye contact, and the energy of face-to-face dialogue seem to have a waning importance/significance today, which, to me, is sad. Technology has made it to easy for us to look for "efficiency" in interpersonal communication, rather than "effectiveness." Let's not redefine "connecting" from having an emotional connotation to merely a physical/virtual one...


To that point - and as a source of hope - I am sure there are many who have digital relationships who honestly look forward to being able to meet that person face-to-face one day. That feeling, that pull, is a "soul craving."

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

To be honest, mate, I don't differentiate the two. Before we met at Social Mix, was our friendship any less real? I don't think so - it was merely solidified by meeting, and will be again when we have that downtown beer. :)

rdopping moderator

It's good to see that you get out occasionally @TheJackB  Once the roots set it they get tough to remove. In this world the personal touch cannot be forgotten, my man. Good to see you here. Always a man of few words. You keep all the best stuff for home, huh?


See you over there soon enough....;-)

Latest blog post: August 2012 - Read This Stuff!

rdopping moderator

 @timbo1973 Interesting Tim. You have had experiences on both ends to the extreme, huh?


Before i got into social, about a year or so ago, I didn't have an on-line experience at all. Now that I am on-line often I also enjoy it but the funny thing is that you can't really know anyone that well unless you interact in other so to speak IRL ways.


I do know that a few people in this network get together for live chats, etc which certainly would help to solidify relationships. It's not surprising that you miss it.


Good to see you here and thanks for your comments.

rdopping moderator

Hey  @Hajra   I have to agree that  @bdorman264  is kinda creepy. At least that's what I thought you were saying....;-) I also have to agree that the IRL time you spend with your friends, family, whomever is so much more enhanced by the on-line world especially if you only see them occasionally.


As some of the comments here say, there is no significant difference between developing an on-line relationship to one solely in the off-line world. I suppose we can enhance those relationships by continuing them IRL or vice versa from IRL to digital. Is one better than the other? Personally, I think it is purely from the fact that IRL is a much richer experience.


Good to see you here. Maybe we can meet one day, for real.

rdopping moderator

 @bdorman264 You sure you're not a DOM? I suppose that depends on your age...:-) Yep, hugging the laptop just doesn't do it for me either. There's nothing like the back and forth of a great conversation, huh?


Good to see that you can get away and by necessity. I suppose it would be tough to sell a guy on your services if he can't meet you. We are still too conditioned as humans to look someone in the eye to know what we can truly expect from each other.


Everyone still loves Billy.......:-)

rdopping moderator

Thanks so much  @Vidya Sury You are fantastic. Teleportation, huh? That would change social media, huh? No more need to share over long distances.


I think it's great that you can use technology to connect with friends and family over long distances. It's just fabulous. It's also great for business too! It just means that we don't need to be in the same place to work together or enjoy the company of friends. The downside? You have to bring your own drinks.....:-)

rdopping moderator

Thanks a bunch  @belllindsay You know, it IS a double-edged sword. I agree that without social there are tons of peeps I wouldn't know, some in my own backyard (like you). Meeting some of these people IRL or even through Skype changes the game, so to speak. You get to experience their true personality and discover "who" they are. That's just one downside of social. It's sorta like a mask. As much as we think we are being true to who we are you can never replace eye contact and body language. Can ya?


Thanks so much for dropping by. Appreciate your input here!

rdopping moderator

Hey  @briandshelton  thanks for stopping in and for your insightful comments. Very, very true. Yes, the meeting in real life is definitely the soul craving that is missing from the virtual experience. As i mentioned to @Lindsay Bell-Wheeler above the "mask" of social is thrown away when you can look someone in the eye and read their body language.


Personally, I love some of the relationships I have made on-line and after actually meeting some of the folks I have interacted with it changes the game. You have a better understanding of who they are. Unfortunately it is not a reality for must of us to meet all our connections. That's likely why platforms like Skype are so beneficial.


Again, thank you very much for your comments here. 

rdopping moderator

 @Danny Brown  Name the date and place and i will be there bud. But remember, because your famous, your buying! :-)


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