Having been disconnected to the internet now for quite a while, it makes me ponder how the internet has changed our personal connection to other human beings. Being “plugged in” makes one rely on digital media to create and build relationships for us. We no longer personally interact with people on a regular basis; or rather… we do, but distance and busy schedules, tend to delay or (in some instances), prevent us from ever physically meeting the people on the other side of the screen.
But being human, we crave and need some sort of physical contact. Where does this come from then if we consistently make electronic versions of ourselves? This virtual self is what we display on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and personal blogs like this one. But how much of what we show is a facade and how much is a real version? An interesting connection came to me one day while sitting in a cafe pondering this thought.
I took a seminar during my third year at university called “The Imaginary Museum.” It was the first time I had taken a fine art history seminar and the professor pushed every idea of what I had considered to be a museum to the extreme. While most dictionary definitions consider a museum to be a building which preserves, exhibits and studies artistic, historical, or scientific artifacts; she opened my eyes to see that museums, could be more than the ordinary. The classical idea yes, but as well, traveling and virtual museums and museums without walls.
These are all around us. One only has to open the mind to the idea. And once we had done this, it was amazing to see in our every day lives, how many imaginary museums surrounded us. One of my favourite articles and museums that she had us look at was a book by Julian Montague called, The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America, A Guide to Field Identification. The topic, though seemingly ridiculous, provides expansive concepts and terminology which makes it plausible to connect this area of urban life to the concept of imaginary museum.
Now, some may not see the connection that I’m proposing. It’s not that we are all some kind of stray shopping cart, but perhaps that our virtual selves are more an imaginary museum that we think the world should pay attention to. These connections electronically have become a way of life. While it seems convenient, what is it doing to our connections we hold with the real people. The animalistic characteristic that makes us social creatures is being dismissed. But, it’s not just Facebook; it is every single social networking site that we create a profile on. So while we are more than happy to show the virtual self, do we ever present our real selves?