My mother once said to me “the best moments in your life will be conversations”. She was a wise person – a therapist and people would fly thousands of miles, just to be face-to-face with her for an hour. I wonder… how many of us have been inspired by great conversations at some time in our lives?

Daniel founder of a Real Place, with his mother - showing why face-to-face beats online!

Meeting and talking about life, is something we’ve done for thousands of years – since we first sat round fires – since civilisation began. We gathered at the village well and we met in the marketplace. The ancients had a forum – which gave us democracy – but we don’t have a real meeting place.

We’ve been talking face-to-face since we first sat around fires - since civilisation began.

We’re more alive talking face-to-face than sitting in front of a computer. Today, we can discuss everything online – and soon we’ll be able to do that in real-life too. We have no idea who we’re speaking to on the Internet – but we don’t have that problem in real-life.

We are perfectly adapted to this physical world – we reject anything fake.
You can’t live in there! The Internet is not a Real Place.

We are perfectly adapted to our 3D world. We are hardwired to reject anything fake. Online we’re trapped in a flat two-dimensional screen – it’s an unnatural environment for us – and eventually it becomes toxic. Talking face-to-face keeps us sane and it keeps us grounded. Social Media has the opposite effect. It is particularly harmful to the mental health of children and young people.

Predictions about the future often look stupid in a hundred years time. Some say we will live our lives in a virtual reality – with our brains connected to computers. Or would we start to hate being imprisoned in that unreal place?

In the future, people might actually say – why did we spend so much time talking to each other through smartphones and computers? When everybody knows that talking in real-life is so much better!

The movie ‘the Matrix’ was a great inspiration and a powerful allegory for what we’re trying to achieve. It predicted we’d become inextricably linked to computers – and controlled by malevolent AI. In a way that’s already happened. Intelligent algorithms are re-programming our brains – to keep us digitally addicted and permanently online.

TV and social media have created a self-serving lie: That what happens on screen is more important than real-life. To keep us permanently watching and clicking-through.

It was hoped that the Internet would bring us closer together – but in some ways the opposite has happened. America has split into two countries online – each at war with the other. It’s impossible to bring the two sides together – because they inhabit different realities. The two sides live in separate social media echo-chambers. Each side has a different moral framework – making peace and reconciliation impossible. The UK has also become fragmented into multiple internet tribes – that don’t talk to each other.

When we meet face-to-face we inhabit a shared reality – the real world – where we exist together. We make war at great distance through machines – we make peace face-to-face. The Internet has driven us apart – we hope to bring people back together – in a Real Place.

To be clear we are not anti-Internet – we just want something more real and more human.

We don’t always have to talk to each other through computers!

I hope we’ll meet again in a Real Place.

Daniel Norris

Founder, A Real Place