Tuesday, 1 December 2015

It's time to drop the distinction between online and offline

I read this piece by Clementine Ford and it got me thinking.

When I first started "going online" it was using a ZX Spectrum and accessing Prestel. It was a time when email was in its infancy and Bulletin Boards were all the rage. Because so few people were able to access the internet community, there was a clear distinction between what you did online and what you did IRL (In Real Life). That distinction should now be consigned to history - along with 300 baud modems!

Taking the UK as an example, 78% of adults access the internet every day. We use the internet as an integral part of our lives, both for business and for leisure. Whether we're shopping online, paying our bills or posting on social media, our "real life" is now inextricably linked to our virtual presence. There is no longer a clear line where one starts and the other finishes.

The sometimes caustic culture of the early digital communities is being rapidly diluted as more and more people discover the advantages of being connected online as well as offline. We are online both at work and at home. Our digital presence is an integral part of our lives. It's not about spending an hour on a Bulletin Board via dial up any more.

What happens online is no longer separate from our "real world" lives - it's intertwined to the point where the difference has all but disappeared. Convergence has already happened for most of us. Shrugging off bad behaviour online as "just the internet" is no longer acceptable. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook (and other social platforms) need to up their game when it comes to addressing anti-social behaviour.

Equally, we need to consider our own behaviour now that our digital selves are far more visible, What was acceptable, even expected, amongst some regular posters in the early days is no longer appropriate.

The internet has evolved. Our online behaviour needs to evolve too.