Is online real life?

If you haven’t read this short and oh-so-sweet post from Dan Patterson (the guy in charge of the digital platform development for ABC News Radio) then go. Read.

I have two favorite sections of his post, the first being this:

Social media and the web, of course, are NOT inherently bad.   But I do have some angst about the hyperbolic and insular nature of the web and it’s advocates.  I have a sneaking suspicion that many social media evangelists know f***-all about being social, let alone media.

Dan is speaking my language. Online social communications ARE very much insulated. And so are the folks that are touting it as the savior to all your company’s sins.

from ilovelambasbread via flickr

I’ve met some of these people face-to-face and in real life, and they are completely different from when they sit behind that computer screen. Because when they have that keyboard in front of them, they suddenly have some sort of illusion that they are the king of a digital country and wield the imaginary sword that comes with 20,000 followers on Twitter. Of course they are going to say how great social media is. It’s where they became important and got people – not the RIGHT people, but people nonetheless – to listen to them.

Here’s the second:

Social media exhaustion – the inability to keep up with the Digital Joneses – is the next real trend online.  The social web scales far beyond our personal ability to keep up.  We simply cannot absorb or make quality use from every service.  And to any useful end we certainly can’t truly follow (and don’t get me started on the rhetorical disaster that is ‘Follow‘) everyone who uses the social web.   I think it’s important to note that the web only has the power we give it, and that we should use it in ways that FEEL organic and right.

Insert applause here. “The social web scales far beyond our personal ability to keep up.” I couldn’t agree more. It goes back to the concept of thin relationships. It’s the quality versus quantity debate. It’s the popularity contest. It’s the social media echo chamber. Anybody who tells you that they enjoy keeping up with tens of thousands of relationships (or even can, for that matter) is lying.

Look, I’m not an online hater. In the least. I mean, you’re reading my blog for cryin’ out loud. I’m just a big believer in crossing the gap between online experience and offline experiences. I’m a big believer that most of your life happens offline. I’m a big believer in the fact that 90% of word of mouth happens offline.

So is online real life? Yes, it is. But a sliver of it. Just about everything meaningful in life happens offline. Online might play a part in some of it, but nothing can and ever will replace offline life.

Have a great social media vacation, Dan.


  • March 31, 2010


    Thanks for sharing the link to that blog earlier in the week; I thought it was a great read.

    Bridging online to offline is tough, especially when you think about trying to scale it. And nobody has completely “cracked the code” on that part of it yet.

  • April 1, 2010


    I think what Jimmy Buffet sang about this crazy digital age says it best: “I’m a digital explorer in analog roam. And everybody’s on the phone. Everybody’s on the phone, so connected and all alone.”

    From “Everybody’s on the Phone” Album: Take the weather with you, 2006

  • April 1, 2010

    Andrew Brynjulson

    I love the word insulated to describe online communications. I think we often forget that people change when they’ve got a computer as their buffer zone. It’s like generalizing about people’s behavior on Halloween when they can hide behind a costume. Good read, Spike.

    Andrew Brenni Fresh Brynjulson

  • April 7, 2010

    Dan Patterson

    Spike – thanks much for the kind words. I appreciate it.

    – DHP

  • April 9, 2010

    Spike Jones

    And thanks for stopping by, Dan.

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