What Is Or Isn’t “Real Life”?

I have a good friend who is a couple of generations younger than I am.   While we are very different people,  with very different personalities and world views we share a fairly large number of interests and often enjoy just shooting the breeze with each other.  Sometimes though,  our very different perspectives lead us to disagreements.   As a blogger,  to me a “meme” is a blog post that sets out to answer some formulaic set of questions or follow some set of rules,  and which tags some (often specified) number of other bloggers to do a post of their own according to the same formula.    Sometimes these “memes”  can become quite popular and the person who created a meme that goes viral may get hundreds and hundreds of backlinks as more and more people do a post according to the formula and link back to the original.

My friend seemed quite puzzled when I explained to him  “what a meme is”.    I’m not certain that he actually said that I was “wrong” about memes,  but to my friend a “meme” is a picture such as the one shown here,  which each successive participant is to change the displayed caption on.   (If I were actually doing this meme according to my friends rules,  I would change the words from “WHY ISN’T THIS A NON FICTION BOOK”  to some equally clever (one hopes) phrase of my own.    Way, way back in elementary school I seem to recall learning that fiction is a make believe story and non-fiction is “true”.    This is somewhat accurate,  at least in as far as 3rd or 4th graders are capable of understanding the concept.    However any writer or student of literature who has gone on to or beyond the under graduate level knows that good literature is successful in large part because it presents universal truths using fictitious characters and settings.    Some writers and critics of non-fiction might also argue that good non-fiction succeeds because it examines, explores and illuminates veritable truths rather than because it uses the correct names of the “characters”  the story is about.

All of which is preface to asking, just what about our online lives (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is “real life”  and what does that mean.    I am thinking today that this is not in any way an academic question,  but rather a critical question that anyone who participates in blogging or social media must at some point come to terms with if they are to be successful in these areas.    I am well aware that Empire Avenue is very much a game.    And yet I find myself disagreeing with a friend who remarked recently that it is  “just a game”.    Consider,  that most of the “players” on Empire Avenue are using their real “wallet names”  on that site and have connected Empire Avenue to their Facebook (and or G+) profiles– both sites that explicitly require that one use their real wallet name.   (Not that either site is particularly sophisticated or successful about weeding out folks who sign up under an alias.)

Is it fair to publicize,  such as on blogs or other social media,  instances where people seem to be cheating on Empire Avenue or “not playing fair”?    It’s not a simple question I don’t think and to be perfectly honest,  I have not as yet come to any conclusion either way which seems satisfactory to me.   What do you think?    Is Empire Avenue “just a game” or is it “real life”?   Is it fair to bring repercussions into people’s real lives for their behaviors on Empire Avenue?    Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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60 comments on “What Is Or Isn’t “Real Life”?

  1. My view is that the online world is real life. People interact in order to get to know each other, to do business, make relationships and so on. What is not real about this? People are way beyond being confined to a small space with no windows and a desktop! As far as EA goes, I believe that it is necessary to have a more secure double-check system before doing as the article suggests. Even the most honest occasionally have trouble completing a mission for whatever reason – not often (because this IS a problem), but occasionally.

  2. The web is real life. People make links, do business, buy and sell, start relationships, and so on. We are way beyond the little cubicle with no windows and a desktop. This is about social interaction. Now, Empire Avenue is also about real life. However, real life suggests that it is not possible to be 100% clean on completing missions, for a considerable range of reasons. 95 to 98% clean yes, otherwise it really is about scamming. But 100% is a bit rich. There would need to be a far more secure double-checking system before people were publicly reported for there activity on EA. Repeat offenders – different story. I would need to think about that one. An interesting article! Thanks.

    • Robert, I think you make a very important point– that sometimes things go wrong through no one’s fault, or by errors made by the player who creates the mission. And I do agree there does need to be some awareness of and consideration for the fact that sometimes folks can’t complete the mission through no fault of their own.

  3. This is an interesting question, considering that I posed this question to Ric Williams the President of Empire Avenue about two weeks ago that he should allow people to use celebrities photos as their own. Now I live in Los Angeles which is the home of many celebrities, ie Justin Beiber and one person in Singapore, use JB’s phot and indicated he was JB in Singapore.

    I said that this was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Did Ric even answer me? No, now, consider yourself warned Ric, it doesn’t take long before a attorney for Mr. Bieber finds EA and asks you to take down any resemblance of their client and then asks for money from you for using his face. This happens in LA everyday.

    Now is EA real life yes, in many ways, we are all playing a game in life and we have drama in our lives and we encounter frauds and wonderful people in our daily lives.

    • Michelle, I believe that “Dups” rather than Ric is the head honcho at Empire Avenue. Your point about users who impersonate celebrities is well taken. At one time, Empire Avenue offered to “verify” celebrity accounts to give all users confidence that, for example (e)JFONDA really is the popular and well known actress. (I got ‘verified’ as Libdrone Books). The verification process changed, and it appears that the ‘Verified’ flag no longer flies on any accounts, so I don’t know where Empire Avenue is on this issue at present.

  4. I agree with Robert. Also I would point out that as far as EA is concerned, if you push the big blue button you HAVE completed the mission. The additional instructions are nothing more than a suggestion, that so many people carry them out is a good thing. Finally… EA is a game. Period. You wouldn’t create a public embarrassment for someone who pulled an extra card in a card game, you just wouldn’t play with him or her any more. If you have an issue with an EA player, block the player and get on with your life. Can you imagine defamation suits from EA? Please.

    • Vince,

      I don’t know about “wouldn’t create a public embarrassment for someone who pulled an extra card”. It’s my understanding that at one time, at least here in the western part of the United States, you could have shot and killed someone who pulled an extra card and have been regarded both by law and public sentiment as having been in the right. Your point about defamation suits has more merit, although suing someone for having called you a thief seems to me an even bigger escalation of a “game”.

      • I guess I should have been a little clearer… let’s say we were talking about a weeknight Pinochle card game. In the card games I believe you’re referencing, there was a clear tangible upside to winning (and downside to losing) that transcended the game. EA’s results are tangible for some, not so tangible for others, and in any case, at the level of an EA mission, taking even so much as 50K EAves without executing the 46-instruction task list has no tangible upside. I have yet to see a Starbucks or a McDonalds honor payment in EAves.

        Great conversation!

  5. Its a combination of real world stuff and trying to have fun at in a game like experience. Some spend money to gain Eaves to spend and encourage others to engage and complete activities … I get that … everyone should be playing fair. In some cases, mistakes are made, buttons pushed, techie issue preventing the completion of a mission. However, all should be careful what they post about others.

  6. I think Empire Avenue is what you make of it. I have learned a lot from people who I have met through Empire Avenue and it can be used to help boost your social activities and provide insights. There is gamification to build the social currency, which can be converted to drive real $’s for you.

    • Steve, I definitely agree with your first comment, that Empire Avenue (or most anything else) largely is what you make of it. Though reading your last sentence, I am reminded of a very long time Empire Avenue player who offered I think it was 25,000 eaves for a mission to contribute ten dollars to some charity he’s associated with and was utterly furious that he gave away all of those eaves and only one or two people (of like 50 who took the mission) actually contributed to the charity.

  7. I think that EA is a community where we can learn. Interactions on the internet are motivated by the same human emotions that are present in real life. The online Community takes a lot of prejudice that’s built in with visual cues out of the human equation.

    • I mostly agree with what you say, and it reminds me of another point I’ve tried to make at times. While missions can drive genuine social activity, your content has to be good enough to genuinely engage folks on an intellectual or social level for a mission to really succeed.

      • You are missing the point. The reaction that people have is an emotional one. Everyone on the planet pretty much has emotions that are driven by their frames of cultural influence. E.g. education, economy, government, religion, family, etc. The commonality across these cultures are truth, love and compassion. I believe this is what people on the web are reactive to. Why are images of beautiful things or quotes or spiritual message get such a tremendous uptake? Because they are invoking a common and fundamental and emotional reaction.

  8. I think Empire Avenue is a little bit of both… it is a game, yet for most of us it is also real life. The mission issue is a problem that EA really should try to address through programming… for example, missions that require buying shares should be easy enough to verify. And, people have suggested many ways to verify or add reputation management to the game. So, to me, the mission completion problem is primarily a failure of the game itself.

    That said, I’ve played other games where members dealt with cheaters by keeping lists of people who were untrustworthy. Something like that would be reasonable. But, I don’t think it would be right to post complaints on people’s Facebook pages or otherwise enter their public life. A few months ago someone did missions naming cheaters he wanted to shame. That opened up an interesting discussion as many of the people he identified as cheaters were aggressively defended by others. So, who knows — were they people who got a phone call or their browser crashed and that’s why they didn’t finish the mission? Or were they people who are good to their friends but rip others off? I don’t know.

    • Lynn, I definitely think you are right that Emprire Avenue is both a game and real life. (At other times I have found myself chastising those who take Empire Avenue very seriously for their condemnation of folks who see it as just a game.) I definitely think that the Empire Avenue team could improve the software so that the eaves are not released until someone (buys shares, re-tweets, Likes) completes some required action. I have no idea how likely it is that EAv will do something along these lines.

  9. It is real life to me. Missions, for example, work two ways The only real reason to do lots of missions is to earn eaves to you can run missions. If you get a reputation of cheating on missions, then who will run your missions when your time comes?

  10. I agree with others commenting here that Empire Avenue is both a game and real life (just as if you play chess it is a game but also real life). But Michelle makes an interesting point (Now is EA real life yes, in many ways, we are all playing a game in life): our lives themselves are also a game.
    It is like the story of the emperor who dreamed he was a butterfly – when he woke up, he began wondering whether he was an emperor in real life, and had dreamed he was a butterfly. Or was he in reality a butterfly, dreaming he was an emperor. Where does one reality begin and the other end?

    • mmmm. I agree, Laura, that all of life can be viewed as a game and I frankly love the idea of the cat wondering if he is really an emperor who dreams of being a cat. I think that the answer has to be that we each of us determine what reality is for ourselves. And yet that seems such an inadequate answer to me, in that we each and eery one of us have so much real world impact on each other.

  11. • Definitely real people are participating (for the most part) though a few hide behind corporate screens
    • Most try to be real, as in sincere, genuine, straightforward and honest. There’s not a lot of dishonesty or subterfuge.
    • There’s lots of different motivations. For some it is just fun, some like the competition, many enjoy the connections and conversations, some find it helpful in their business or career, whereas for others it’s a sideline or entertainment.
    • The interactions are certainly real (especially if you include the Facebook groups though more casual, less committed, than other parts of our (private) lives.
    • Those that find value continue with it, whereas others move on to something else. All in all I think the community has a real positive value for those that stay engaged.

    • I certainly agree with you David, that the Empire Avenue community has real positive value for many of us who participate. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  12. Pingback: What Is Or Isn’t “Real Life”? « Harold's Garden

  13. I started playing EA to help me learn about and get better at Social Media; so for me, the intriguing question becomes “Is any of this Social Media stuff real?”

    I am not sure I have a great answer yet; so I will keep playing along for now. Watching & learning and perhaps having a bit of fun.

    I must admit to a fair amount of amusement from the breathless anger about folks who play the game wrong. I love the missions that warn about cheating. I am sure that admonition stops those cheaters instantly.

    • Harold, I certainly can understand an argument that none of this online stuff is “real”, that it is all bits of ones and zeroes floating around on electrons. However, if one chooses to participate it seems to me that one must take it at least somewhat seriously. I stopped adding the warning to mission cheaters to my missions when I realized it really does come across as laughably as you describe. I put up the missions page on this blog largely because I came to realize you do have to give some kind of warning if you are going to publicly excoriate those who take the eaves and run.

      • I guess we are headed toward an ontology discussion here, but perhaps before that I should clarify my idea.

        I am unclear that the time & energy devoted to SM has enough non-digital ro IRL consequence to justify that investment. Some days after FBing, tweeting, EAving, LIing, Gplussing, vouching, K(I can’t just add ‘ing’ because that makes king…)ing, Endorsing, and all the rest, I do suspect that stepping away from the PC and interacting with folks in real life might be a better time spend.

        I balance that with the pleasure I find meeting new folks online. I am enough of a geek to enjoy learning the new systems and technologies. I guess I am trying to work out the opportunity cost and locate a bit of balance for me.

  14. I have never thought of Empire Avenue as a game, and I still don’t – though I see some participants “gaming” the system. To see it as a game would assume that the aim is simply to accrue as much virtual wealth as possible. This can only be done, though, by engaging in missions, and it is in these missions that we very much see the diversity of causes that other players have committed themselves to – many of them extremely worthy and awe-inspiring. Empire Avenue seems to make me more aware of real life even though it is all conducted in a virtual world. The cycle of engaging in other people’s missions, earning virtual currency that I can both invest in others with whom I build a relationship, and use to attract others to participate in missions that are important to me, immerses me every day in a a very real cycle of an increased understanding of the interests and concerns of others, in a way that is rarely encountered in the “real” world, or at least on a much smaller scale and longer time frame. No, Empire Avenue is not a game. There are many other outlets that don’t constantly challenge one’s thinking, perspective, morals, and effort if you want to play a game.

    • Mark, I believe you are mistaken when you say that wealth can only be obtained through missions. I’ve come to believe that time, and the effect of passively receiving investment dividends each day is what really creates most eaves wealth. I believe that the combination of an engaging game with real social media is where the magic lies for Empire Avenue. The trick will be to find a way to make it fair without ruining the game aspects I think.

    • I think you might have a great idea there, Derrik, about measuring integrity. That is sort of what trust.me is trying to do, but it’s not clear to me how successful they will be at that.

  15. I think it’s a little of both. It’s real people playing the “game” of social media while getting real worth from the enhanced visibility of their online properties.

  16. I do believe that you have started an interesting conversation here Alan, and one that EA should be here to read. I have blocked people who steal on missions, because how else do you stop them. Our group has taught me many lessons on how many people play this game.

    Missions have translated to dollars for me in an event that I was running and in in promoting my business in the real world that is why I do this. I also enjoy the relationships and the social media development that I continue to master.

    • Michelle, I too have blocked many, many people for stealing on missions. At length this inevitably begins to feel like trying to bail out the ocean with a teaspoon. I had been thinking that the way to stop them was by publicizing their behavior, but all of the feedback I’ve received about this question leaves me more uncertain than ever. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective.

  17. Hi Alan 🙂 here is my opinion about EA:

    – Investing in stocks and managing a portfolio is purely a game. Some gurus gamers will tell us that “the” way to “play” is via the “Yield index” which symbolises what to expect from an investment and to their eyes if you are supposedly playing well or not… As you know, many people use now automatic bunk buys (& sells) tools (with automatic shouts) not just to save time but also because they see and use EA purely as a game…

    – Then you can think outside of the box… engage with people, connect, join existing communities, create some new ones etc… Well-thought missions are a great way to convert the “virtual” into “real”… like this post is doing… already 33 comments so no doubt it will be taken more seriously by Search Engines and by human beings… did you build this score artificially ? yes and no… I found out about the post via an EA mission but I visited the blog today mainly because of the post topic and the post writer (you 😀 )… Is my comment real? yes it is. And how did we met ? via EA…

    EA can also be a great source to learn about social media not directly via the game aspect but via your contacts interactions and forums…. So I think EA is what you make of it regarding the opportunities that are offered… but some people won’t see them or be interested… perhaps at the end of the day it’s all about people…

    Personally with the success of (e)DESdaughter ticker (if I compare to other tickers and to the existing official DES action groups), it convinced me to the benefit of launching my 2nd account (e)DOMINOcean…

    wishing a great day to all the EA “players” and especially the Gangstas 🙂

    • Well, we definitely agree that the ‘gangstas are the best 🙂 I do like it when my posts drum up real discussions (it is So much easier sometimes to drum up 100 people to say Happy Birthday to someone who is rather popular to begin with). I am still puzzling over whether and how it is okay to publicly shame mission cheaters.

  18. Simply put cheating in cyber space or real life is the same thing. Dishonesty is has no place in society whatever form it takes. I have met a lot of wonderful people through social media and it has been of great benefit to my business. Its a means of connecting across the world and sharing idea’s

  19. I see both in EA – it has an adrenaline of a game that some people like, and like every game there are different ways of playing it ( cheating, selling accounts that can not match your expectations and doing everything to receive the top position). But, of course, this is also a real life and you meet different people and choose who you wish to contact with. I see missions not only a way to gain eaves but to learn more about people interests and find new exciting tools and ideas.

    • Aviva, you are certainly right that EAv is both a game and real life. And I do greatly value all of the connections I have made. I think that sometimes I just get inordinately frustrated with people who cheat on missions. (And that is probably ultimately a ME problem 🙂

  20. I spent quite a lot of time at university studying game theory (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory) as part of a degree in international relations. The oppposite of ‘game’ is not ‘real life’ because real life is all about people playing games – or have you really not noticed? The opposite is 100% passivity where you allow people to ‘game’ you. Eric Berne’s ‘Games People Play’ is also still worth a read. Empire Avenue is just playing out online the kind of games people you meet offline engage in all the time. The expression ‘Let the buyer beware’ originated because there are a lot of crooks out there trying to sell you rubbish. Empire Avenue simply reflects real life (it is real life) and real people (the people are real as well)

  21. My 2 cents? The “buying” is a game. The affects on our f/b, twitter blah blah blah accounts are real. I’ve made lots friends and even a few enemies. I’ve made wonderful professional contacts and found a few people I would never want to meet in person. My blog has a much larger following, (even though I have to bribe people with eaves to read it) but I’ve had a few folks tell me I’m a…*insert “B” word here.

    So yeah, it’s both. For sure!

  22. I love the comment by LayAnglica – my online life is part of my life – period! I seek to have congruity in all spheres, to be who I am, even when people aren’t watching.

    Do I always succeed? Of course not. That’s part of being human – we make mistakes, we’re not perfect, we fail and we try again. I try hard to be mindful of how my actions influence others.

    I especially appreciate when I am able to take online relationships offline but I have definitely built strong relationships with people I may never meet.

    As for people who behave in a fashion I don’t appreciate – if it’s grave (like bullying or hate speech) then I’ll take a stand, but at times it’s just better to distance yourself from people rather than lecture them. There’s only so much time in the day, and so much energy.

    Great blog post Alan!

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Janis. I’m sure you’re right that it’s probably better to just quietly distance ourselves from dishonest people rather than making a big fuss.

  23. In the very beginning EA was nothing more than a game for me. Last year come November, my quality of life took a turn for the worse, and I could no longer run our brick and mortar. Having a lot more couch time I began to delve a bit deeper into the EA platform and it began to spill over into life.
    Once the mission feature was rolled out in full force EA became a wonderful source of information which could be applied to my business, and open my eyes to things I didn’t know existed. Without missions I probably would not have come across your posts,
    I use the mission feature to mainly reward my shareholders and drive a bit more activity towards my value. Once I begin to use missions as a means to drive traffic towards a specific goal on a regular basis I’ll see if I’m disappointed by the results or not.
    I have had a few individuals that consistently took part in my missions without performing my mission request, and I have simply blocked them.

    • Indeed. I really am quite pleased about all the people like you, Bill, that I have gotten to meet through Empire Avenue and the missions. I am beginning to think the real take away for me is going to be to cherish the great people that I get to meet and mostly just block and ignore the ones who take the eaves and run 🙂

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