Are you for real, bro?

From naming yourself after your favourite Star Wars character to putting up highly fantasized pictures of your human self on Bitstrips, your online identity has seen you do a bunch of crazy things.  However, what started as fun and games has long since existed to be just. You’re now as much of an amalgamation of your online experiences as your real-life ones and who’s to say which one’s what?

With phone vibrations punctuating almost all our human interactions, the time and importance we give to knowing what #Karachi on Twitter is saying is way more than how we actually spend an ordinary day in the city. But where does our online life end and where does the real life begin and does the latter even matter anymore?

Though seemingly a preposterous idea, our increasing participation in cloud communities (online food groups, art pages and movie review forums) at the expense of real-life interaction with fellow mortals says otherwise. Even when it comes to doing such things as developing skill-sets or finding a living, we are more likely to spend time on activities that are valued on the internet as opposed to real life things, like getting out of bed.

Adorning our cell-phone experience with the furniture of apps, we are slowly doing away with the need of having tangible things around. Notebooks, calculators, chess boards, canvases, alarm clocks are all examples of things that have slowly disappeared from our physical surroundings, only to appear in our virtual one.

In fact, we shy away from having real-life encounters (try running into a “well-meaning” acquaintance at Dolmen Mall) and wish for extra lives in Candy Crush as opposed to brownies in real life (or maybe, that’s a tough call). It is the banning of websites that makes us abandon our comfort zones to protest and it is when we are blocked on online pages that we truly begin to feel for our “fundamental” rights.

With our rooms slowly transforming into Batcaves where we wish we could store a week-long supply of food to go with our technology, we know our online lives are taking over, leaving little or no room to develop our offline identity. We know how to respond to various situations online with standard phrases like YOLO (you only live one), bitch please!, the staple LOL (laugh out loud) coming to the rescue but often find it hard to tell someone off in real life – a fact which was made more convincing to me when my friend disclosed she had taken a “How to say NO and stand up to your peers” course online!

Even though we’d like to thing that this is a problem that only concerns a certain strata of society, upon closer inspection this gets proved wrong. From daily-wage earners to salaried drivers, sometimes it is their life in their mobile phones, which keeps them going.

With people Instagramming to add filters to their photos to cropping out their photo-bombing friends, our appearances online have started to matter just as much as our real selves – if not more.

Who are we turning into and who are we leaving behind? The question in these times to ask your self is, “are you for real, bro?”

If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s why I am not:

Mark Zuckerberg’s sister thinks you should register a baby’s online identity at birth.

Published in The Express Tribune blogs here.



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