Let’s get meta.
Picture on this post is of zero relation. I just like snow. And Kanon.
This post was originally conceived of as a while back, but Fractale’s setting has motivated me to actually drag my ass to my keyboard and birth this damn thing. After all, Fractale is in a sense of a future “what if…” for our current state of being, a place wherein the digital has taken over to the point where people send forth avatars of themselves into the real world in order to do their real-time living.
Actually, as a mindscrew, consider: the world we see in Fractale is actually inside of a computer. Clain is actually himself a doppel, although he doesn’t realize it. The other “human” characters are also doppels. The doppels that look like doppels? Their real-life counterparts are outside of the system somewhere, but the difference is that they are aware of this, whereas Clain is not.
I don’t actually think this is where it is all going, but, hey, food for thought and all that jazz.
So, in Fractale people don’t go out at all, they just like sending their doppels to experience life while they sit at home. We know that Clain’s parents live separately, and Clain himself is unused to interacting with real, live people. So… how did Clain come to be, exactly? Are babies still made the old fashioned way? Or are they grown in test-tubes? I could see a Terra e…-style situation, wherein babies are made in test-tubes, and then assigned to a pair of parents who will raise them until they are old enough to have their minds wiped and attend vocational school. Which isn’t to say that anyone’s getting their minds wiped here, but, rather, that Clain may not even be related to his parents.
Of course, are we even sure that his parents are “real”? How do we know that they aren’t themselves simply computer programs designed to raise a child? Which, I will note, in turn begs the question – what is “real”, anyway?
Although I didn’t exactly get to it in the manner I wished to, this sort of brings me to my central matter: what is love in a digital context? What does it mean? What is its nature? Is it “real”?
This sort of meditation fits more neatly into the paradigm of online dating, honestly, than it does on an anime blog, but I think it does have some relevancy here, too. We like to joke about blogcrushes, and being “gay” for other bloggers (of course, what does that even mean itself?), but I do know that some of us have “legit” crushes on other bloggers. But what exactly is that? What are we reacting to, precisely? Their body of work? The way in which they present themselves? What are we feeling attraction or admiration for?
Its an interesting series of questions to consider, especially as the notion of falling in love on the internet flies in the face of the trend toward boiling down human attraction to chemicals. Pheromones in particular have become quite a popular explanation for it all. But if one isn’t in physical proximity to another, then pheromones cannot work their little magic. And if pheromones are the magic touch, then what is going on here?
I’m actually a bit unconvinced as to the holy grail qualities of pheromones, as I have experienced being in love with the idea of someone long after my feelings of affection for the actual person had faded. Given that, I think what we are watching is people developing crushes on the idea of a person, and not necessarily on the blogger themself – or the person on OkCupid, I Love Your Accent, Plenty of Fish, et cetera. On the other hand, I would argue that this doesn’t exclude any possibility of developing feelings for the person, as has been demonstrated by a million internet dating successes. It can serve to endear one to a person prior to actually meeting them. I think online communication certainly makes is easier to then meet a person in real life, since one feels as if they already know them (and maybe they do – what is it to know someone, anyway?).
What does is mean to “know” someone? I carry into this since I wish to shift gears slightly to the matter of death on the internet (death and the internet?). This is where this post was originally born, in considering the meaning of death in the context of an online community. I was prompted into thought by a story I heard on the radio about a man who was part of a website dedicated to traveling, and who passed away, seemingly vanishing from the website. Others wondered where he had gone, and managed to get in touch with the man’s wife, who informed them that he had died.
What happens when we die and we leave behind this internet legacy? What happens when we die and those we leave behind are not simply our real-life friends, family, neighbors, lovers, teachers…? Is it warranted to mourn for someone one only knew online? Do we truly mourn for those we lose whom we only knew online? What is it to mourn, anyway?
I suppose it all boils down to – how much of this is real? Which, in turn, brings us again to: what is “real”?
I value the real world over the digital one. I could live without the internet, although it’d be hard, but I could not live locked in the same room forever with just a computer. I enjoy exploring the world too much for that, and, more specifically, I enjoy exploring the world by myself too much for that. I am the person who goes a-wandering for a few weeks and leaves my cellphone and computer behind. At school, living in a residence hall, I managed to on multiple occasions go an entire weekend without interacting with anyone else, including over the internet. I value solitude much too much to go into a room and stay there with a computer for the rest of my life. I need the sort of emptiness that one finds by going to the middle of nowhere and just staying there for a bit, free from computers or phones.
And, yet, I would not argue that everything that we have online, that we do online, that is online isn’t real. I consider the bloggers I interact with regularly to be friends. But I think that the concrete experience of the world outside of the internet is real-er, if you’ll pardon such a silly way of describing it. If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, it still makes a sound and has an affect. If a tree falls on the internet, and there’s no one around to hear it, it still makes a sound but there is no effect. I think that’s the best way I can describe it.
You’ll notice that I’m not really answering any of these questions. I don’t have answers for most of these questions, quite simply. But I think it is worth raising them, even if I myself cannot answer them. Sort of like the usage of consciousness raising by feminist groups – if you start making people aware of questions or the state of things, then it starts up a conversation. Even if the conversation doesn’t yield any concrete answers itself, it could also raise some other questions and introduce some different perspectives.
For now, though, I’m going outside. Hopefully no trees will fall on me.