My So-Called Virtual Life
Most of us are familiar with the idea of a virtual girlfriend, or at least with dating simulations. Well, this idea continues to gain momentum in Japan, where men are taking their cyber-girlfriends with them on vacation.
This story is a bit dated now – it came out in The Wall Street Journal Digital Network on August 31 – but I still find it oddly entertaining. Otaku in the United States have a unique perspective; unlike Japanese otaku, most of us will find this hilarious and desperate, but unlike typical Americans, we can understand it. Seeped in Japanese culture, American otaku know about the desperation of many of these Japanese men, and let’s face it, the typical anime fan in the U.S. also crosses categories into that of the nerd, geek, or both. And nerdy boys don’t usually get the girl of their dreams.
What made me a bit uncomfortable about the story was the loneliness the men in the video expressed. A virtual girlfriend can become an obsession, but it can’t fill a the void that a healthy relationship can. It’s easy to get caught up in virtual or fantasy worlds when our realities aren’t what we hope. Most anime is escapism more than art, and I would dare say that most anime fans view it in that way. Escapism brings enjoyment, but it can also both warp our views of the real world and prohibit us from doing what we should.
Any form of escapism – anime, television, games, music or even digital girlfriends – can suck away valuable time. What loses out when we give so much of our life to these items? Schoolwork, our jobs, our sleep and health, and most importantly, our relationships, can suffer. There are a variety of answers to the question, Why are we here on earth? I think, however, one way to sum up the answers to that question is with a single word: relationships.
For Christians, we are figuratively God’s hands and feet. He can do miracles – the Old Testament approves to that – but since the time of the resurrection, He has chosen to use His people to do good works. His choice is for His sons and daughters to establish relationships with the poor, needy, suffering and lost. Instead of providing miraculous healings (though there are many still reportedly happening today), He sends people to care for the sick and dying. Instead of toppling the North Korean government, He ignites the flames of an illegal church. Even for non-Christians, the point is similar: we, with our western luxuries and richness (for even the poor in developed countries may be considered rich elsewhere in the world), need to get off our butts and help others.
Many anime and movies have explored the idea of two worlds: digital and real. It’s a common phrase to write “in real life” when discussing what one plans to do away from a chatroom or instant messenger. But when we let our fake world take the place of our real one, it’s not just us that suffer – we also hurt those that need us.
“Internet: absolute communication, absolute isolation.”
– Paul Carvel
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
– Paul, I Corinthians 12:27