Coded gray.

Saturday 28 July 2001


Pic of the day: The text just barely visible on the book says "There are no limits". But in real life, there are.

Where is the mask?

"IRL". It is one of those abbreviations we use even though we don't agree with it. (And why use a long word like "abbreviation" about something that's suppose to save typing, anyway?) I see it in chat rooms, I see it in roleplay, on newsgroups, on mailing lists. I bet I've seen it in online journals too. IRL: In Real Life.

When you're in the middle of a roleplaying game and absolutely must say something about the real world, it makes sense to say " the phone rings IRL" to explain your absence without messing up the roleplay. But for the rest? It really has me wondering.

There are actually some differences between the people I meet on the Net and the people I meet elsewhere. But which ones are wearing their masks?


I was thinking again on one of the topics from yesterday. And I wondered: How come that I meet a lot of witches, pagans and polytheists online, but never ever anyone elsewhere? Do these people just play heathens when they are on the Internet, and then on Sunday they go to church (or alternatively stay home mowing the lawn)? Or are they still pagans when they log off, but keep a low profile? After all, if you're flamed on the Net you can just log off. If you're flamed IRL, your house burns down. I'd like to think that we don't flame witches these days, but perhaps they think otherwise. I know some christians expect to be beheaded or thrown to the lions real soon now. Perhaps we will. Personally I'd prefer to not be martyred until the age of 90 or so ...

The other thing I mentioned, about sexuality, kind of ties in with the mask thing. It is a fact of life that a lot of the traffic on Internet is related to sexual interests, usually such as are not sanctioned by most churches. So are people just roleplaying sex-hungry maniacs on the Net, or are they role-playing decent and faithful husbands & wives offline? Or both of the above?

Every few months I make it a point that I'm 42 years old and have never known any gays or lesbians offline. But online I've met quite a few. Of course the most reasonable explanation is that offline, they don't walk up to me and announce their inclinations. But evidently they do online; certainly I've not been using google or altavista to search for their sexual practices. Some mention it in passing. Some mention very little else. Where is the mask? Do they wear a gay mask online or a straight mask offline? Or both of the above?


And what about myself? Am I wearing a different mask online than offline? In at least one aspect, yes. I am fairly talkative online. But offline, I am silent most of the time. Even when I'm together with others. I may discuss politics or economics, or rather I try to enlighten others when they reveal a lack of understanding. Ahem. But mostly I don't have much to say.

The difference starts to blur when it comes to online chat (IRC). There I will participate in bursts when there is something vaguely interesting, and then be silent for a while when people discuss things that don't interest me even a little bit. In the fleshworld I don't have the luxury of gathering friends from all over the world based on common interests, and so there tends to be few common interests at all.

Of course, this could be because they hide their real interests behind their masks. Certainly it seems that when people get drunk, they show much more interest in religion, ethics, supernatural phenomena, and global politics. Sadly, when people get drunk, they also tend to be confused, overly emotional, and mentally unstable. I'm not at all sure it is an improvement.

I wonder if we shall see a future where people live most of their real life in virtual space, and live a virtual life in real space. If we have a real life at all, not just different masks for different occasions ...

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