This drama with facebook booting off members for having “fake” names has got me thinking about a few things. Mainly, the tendency for people to say stuff like “I do that in my real life job” or “she and I are also friends irl” or similar. I’m pretty sure that irl (“in real life”) began as a term used by gamers when chatting online. Now, it is used by a lot of people online, and honestly it pisses me off. Outside of a role-playing scenario it is really inappropriate, I think.
Sometimes writers say it, though I think (hope) that what they actually mean when they say something like “I’m a chef irl” is that they are a chef in their day job, as opposed to their writing which they do as a part time night/weekend job. I understand people might also use it as a way to reassure readers/online friends that they indeed have a profession or relationships that exist in reality, and that they are indeed real people. But it just sounds so wrong, to me. Why not just say “I am a chef”? Why should people have to say “she’s my girlfriend irl”? Why not just “she’s my girlfriend”? I mean, unless you are a sociopath who is running an “online persona,” why would you need to make the distinction at all?
The problem is, this is the kind of language that encourages us to treat the internet as a “fake space,” as if the things that are said and done here don’t matter. Well, they do matter. If someone harasses you online, it is just as hurtful as if they did it in real life. If someone threatens you online, or extorts money from you online, it is still a real crime. I think pretending there is this imaginary line between “real life” and “the internet” is dangerous, because it allows people to behave as if they are not accountable for the things they do and say online.
So anyway, Amelia Bishop is not my real name. But everyone knows that writers have pen names, and so I’ve never felt weird about that. But everything I present of myself is real. The things I do, or say, online are “real life” to me. How about you?