What is real?

Today, you sit on your laptop, writing an insightful comment, and it’s as if we’re sitting across the table, the words exchanged, the beer, and the emoticons, the peanuts. It’s surreal and frightening. Surreal because you’ll carry with you some idea of me that will shape your next comment. Frightening because that idea isn’t real. We’ve never met, and yet we converse like old friends, chatting amicably about culture and the political zeitgeist. What’s terrifying is that if we were to meet, I’ll carry traces of a pseudo-you from the comments section, and you’ll carry a notion of me, a judgement based on my writing and we’ll either be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by how different we are from our concepts of each other. It’s better we don’t meet. Perhaps that’s the introverted, aloof, smoking-alone-on-the-balcony, introspective part of me talking. A nuanced creature with a plethora of opinions he enjoys keeping to himself. Isn’t it alarming that our notions of what’s real are disintegrating each day with the latest app or software or piece of technology? Once, when the internet was in its nascent stage, mewling in its birth pangs, we emailed each other, and went on with our lives, our concept of what’s real, as solid as the pillars Samson pulled down. Now, the phone is an extension of the arm, the AirPod, an extension of the ear, and the screen, an extension of the eyes. Tradition, latitude, longitude, and perspectives have all coalesced into a murky mass, and we’re united, but still independent. The human being has become a product for consumption, an object bought with likes, comments and followers. What is real anymore? With the metaverse and NFTs, concerts are no longer events reeking of stale cigarettes, alcohol, sweat and bravado; they’re digital facsimiles with avatars holding vodka glasses, bobbing up and down to a Nephilim-sized incarnation of a rap musician who rotates. What’s worse is that they happen in virtual lands that cost millions. What is happening to us? I could write a dystopian lament about uploading our consciousnesses, or a parody of the present, but I doubt it would express what I feel clearly. And what do I feel? I don’t know. Maybe I’m excited, bored, energetic, jaded, happy, and miserable at the same time. Coming back to you, each time I punch the keys of my laptop, I’m worried someone will form a direct link between me and what I write. A straight line that no amount of erasing can make disappear. You are your art, he’ll say with the conviction of a religious fanatic proselyting because he believes he must. Not you, dear insightful commenter, but someone else with too much time on his hands, hypersensitive because the cyberspace has eclipsed his apartment, anxious because the coke bottle, the PS5, the poems he writes, the ideas he comes up with, the nonsense on YouTube or TikTok, the political wars on Twitter, the pop-psychology about narcissism and empathy that’s thrown around everywhere, the madness that plagues him all press on him like the hairy arms of an incubus, crushing his ego and fracturing his identity, until he uses his only defence mechanisms — nitpicking and deflection.  


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