Friday, July 24, 2015

Ready Player One and Physicality

   Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a fascinating book. It tells the story of a kid inside of a virtual world attempting to win a scavenger hunt. Of course, the world was created by a lover of the 80's and pop culture, so there are references to Star Wars, Back to the Future, and anything else from that time period that you can think of. That stuff didn't draw me in that much (being a child of the late 90's, early 00's), but the story itself is pretty fun.
   That's not what I want to talk about. What I found particularly interesting was the idea of a virtual world (spoilers ahead) and the ramifications of such.
   See, the world in the 2040's (when the book takes place) is pretty crappy. And, unfortunately, racism, sexism, and homophobia are still present. However, in the virtual world of the OASIS anyone can look however they want. All it takes is creating an avatar and voila: I can look like a buff, white male; a thin, Venezuelan supermodel, or a tall, hairy Minotaur. This is incredibly helpful for the minorities of the world. No longer is someone looked down upon for the color of their skin, because they can change it to look however they wish. No longer will a woman be made fun of, for she can make herself look as manly as she wishes.
   That's an interesting concept (how the internet can help minorities), but the most interesting idea of all is what Cline says at the end. The man who created the OASIS comes to the main character and says, "It took me a long time to figure this out, but the OASIS is not all that there is to life. Only in the real world can one be truly happy." (paraphrased)
   Why? Why is physicality something that important? I can make friends online. I can have wonderful relationships online. However, is there something about physicality that is necessary? Maybe it's not even that. Maybe it comes down to the point that true vulnerability, true relationship can only happen face to face. Yeah, I can spill my guts on the internet, but I could be making it up. I can talk to people on the internet, but my tone or words can be twisted out of their meaning. There is something about physical, face-to-face relationships that are better than online ones. That's not to knock online relationships. I have cousins who are overseas and I can only talk to them through the internet. That's great. But that enhances our face-to-face relationship. Then there are relationships that I have with people on the internet that I've never met. That's not bad. But were it possible to meet with them face to face, wouldn't that be better?
   The problem is, as an introvert: I say, "No. I'd prefer to only talk to people on the internet. I'd prefer to never have to talk to someone face to face." But is that healthy? Aren't relationships necessary for healthy human life? Even if it is awkward, isn't awkward learning better than no learning at all? And, as great as internet relationships are, for me there is something about face-to-faceness that is so much better.
   So is all this stuff in the book? No. The book had little to say on this subject other than offering up the question. But ever since I've read that book it has been in my mind. So there: now it's out.

   What do you think? Is there something inherently better about face-to-face relationships, or is any relationship (whether over paper, screen, or in real life) equally good? Comment below and tell me what you think!

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