You can get dressed up all special, and people notice

When you eat RL chocolate… you can taste it.

If you do phone a friend at 4am to say "I'm down" they take it seriously.

In RL, you can be alone on purpose without seeming antisocial.

People try to get you to stay "just a little longer" and make you feel wanted.

You can almost always find someone who has never met or heard of your SO
(possibly on a bus), so you can bitch about him in perfect privacy.

And, most importantly

A *hug* is always nice, but a real, close, body-touching real life hug is … nicer :)

You can hear the warmth in the voice that says 'I love you' and see the look in the person's eyes

You can know for sure that people who are being nice to your face aren't simultaneously bitching behind your back

When someone snuggles up to you in real life you can feel their breath on your neck and hear them snore

Real life laughter is infectious

Nobody in real life ever says 'hehe'

IRC is simply a reduced form of communication where the only information passed from one person to another is that which they choose to transmit. On the other hand, when communicating with someone in person the information they are choosing to pass to you is accompanied by many layers of subtle nuances.

Next time you are talking to someone in real life and the conversation ends, notice how they will punctuate it with some form of body language. Look at them carefully and think about how they shrug their shoulders, give a smile or maybe briefly exhale through their nose. See if their eyebrows rise or if they look right at you or maybe look down at their shoes.

Compare that with looking at a screen and noticing that those little words have stopped appearing.

It's easier to be misled on IRC. In Real Life body language, tone of voice, and personal history provide context to everything someone else tells you. On IRC they're just words in the ether; it will take time, history, and trust-building to gain that same level of confidence.

One of the really cool things about digital communication is that you can play with your identity, explore sides of yourself that you subdue in polite company. Unfortunately, with that freedom of anonymity comes the very real potential that you will be manipulated or lied to. It's always helpful to remember that you're filling in the blanks about the people you encounter, and there are many more blanks to fill on IRC than in Real Life.

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