As another acronym to add to your list, IRL (in real life) is a term that keeps popping up. Whether it’s dating or friends or health care or interpersonal communication, I am disillusioned by the online world. So, I asked myself: What other aspects of my life in San Francisco have gone online?
It may not be new, but online dating is the most notable example. On this topic, I am completely in the dark. I haven’t used a dating app in years and now have to rely on my friends to tell me about what everything means. When, if ever, do two people meet IRL?
In most of the conversations, I have found that my friends don’t end up meeting the girl or guy they matched with. The chat remains online, and the date never happens. It seems like online dating is an excellent form of entertainment without the commitment of truly putting yourself out there. And if that’s the case, this isn’t really online — rather, a virtual marketplace with messaging.
You can also see doctors online. Granted, the health care system is broken, and insurance is a bitch, but you don’t have to see the doctor IRL anymore — there are apps for that. From picture-based dermatology apps to heart rate-monitoring watches, your doctor can connect with you online. You can even get a medical cannabis card from a simple Skype session.
Professionally, there are so many startups and companies in the Bay Area that allow you to work from home — WFH, there’s another! — whenever you want. There are times when I am at work and don’t see someone for hours, wondering where they are.
Instead of having a meeting or conversation IRL, I start a Google hangout and get on Slack. It doesn’t really bother me, it’s just interesting that everyone and everything in my office can function exclusively online.
What about new friends? There have been several people I have been introduced to online, either because they are new to The City or they have similar interests to me. I also have met a great deal of women through work events, dinners and happy hours. I form relationships quicker with the women I meet IRL, because I have a sense of their tone and overall presence. It is easier for me to make friends when I actually meet the person.
Keeping in touch with existing friends IRL is even harder. Nowadays, you can like a social media status or comment, “I miss you,” to connect with friends all over the globe. No phone calls are needed at this point. You can just interact online to prove out the friendship. It may have genuine, authentic reasons behind it, but it can also be a cop out. It’s less effort to keep it online.
On the other side, I have six friends who want to hang out this weekend, in addition to the three friends that are staying at my house. I literally have no room to breathe in between events. By no means am I cool because I have lots of friends — I am exhausted. It can be really hard to see many of my friends IRL without giving up a ton of time.
Honesty is a big part of this abstracted puzzle as well. It’s way easier to be honest with your friends, family and significant other — SO, that makes three! — through online communication. Can’t come home for the holidays? Think your best friend is being a jerk? Upset about date night getting cancelled? Very few people want to have these conversations IRL. Emotions are put on the back burner.
In my very first article, I wrote about connecting with people IRL because everything can be done online (to the point that you never have to leave your apartment). This is a bit more personal. If you avoid interactions IRL, you may run the risk of forgetting certain social cues and ways to handle situations. Your brain is a muscle and needs to be engaged with real people that have real things to say.
San Franciscans, it may be uncomfortable at first, but try to do one thing IRL that you don’t normally do. Whether it’s grocery shopping, dating or even grabbing a drink with a friend (instead of commenting on her new profile pic), get out there and remember what it is like to be a real human.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.