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.