“In my real life, I exist as a ‘virtual me.’” She said.
“I go to work. I try to live up to expectations and pressures from parents, my coworkers and society. Then, I go home. I open my computer, I put on some music and I start to dance. That’s the real me.”
Since that first conversation with Rebecca, I’ve been fascinated by the interplay between “virtual me” in real life and “real me” in virtual life. I’ve been particularly interested in studying this in the context of a rapidly developing society. Virtual life transcends the pressures of work, the expectations of society, the borders of geography and the cost (money, but also the personal “risk”) of exploring personal passions.
So, last week, I worked with Rui Xu, my research assistant, to explore this further.
We interviewed roughly 50 people on the streets of Shanghai- from students, to security guards, to watermelon & street food sellers. We asked them about their lives and personalities offline and online. We asked them to imagine what their lives would be like in a world without the Internet.
Here’s what they told us…