A dog is a dog is a dog

What is the point, eh? How can a dog be anything but a dog? I read this story in one of my school books where a dog is not a dog but a robot - owned by a boy who lives on the moon. The boy’s parents feel the boy’s dog is just a machine and the boy needs to experience the love of real live animal. So they want to give away the robot and get him a real dog. But for the boy, the robot dog and its feelings are reality. He does not want a real dog. He wants his dog.

Ok, good story, you may say. But what does that have to do with us? Well, everything. Dog is after all a man’s best friend. Before the feminists protest, woman’s too. Once I was talking to this European girl who loved dogs. We were in Japan at that time and I mentioned Sony’s robotic dog Aibo to her. She flared up at the very idea. How you can even imagine a robot taking the place of a real dog, she said. Next you will suggest one can even date and marry a robot, will you?

These whole set of memories were triggered in my mind when I read an article that said virtual friends are not real and that one should spend more time with real people. Why are our online friends not real, I wondered. They are not even robots but flesh and blood people who are just situated physically remote from us. Is physical closeness what makes a person real? I come across so many people walking around in my apartment complex. But I know nothing about them. They are just faces and bodies. Why are these people more real than people whose thoughts pour out to me through their blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets?  

Moving on from dog to girl, I used to spend entire nights talking to this girl I mentioned earlier. Virtually! She was in the room right next to mine. Still we were comfortable chatting to each other on Skype. When we were together in person we exchanged shallow niceties whilst we exchanged deepest of thoughts virtually. How about that! Our interactions continued even after we moved back to our respective countries. But somehow we eventually drifted away from each other. All our best interactions had been online. So I would have expected spatial distances to make no difference. But that had not been the case. I have somehow never been able to maintain a regular virtual connect with any of my friends from old schools, colleges and workplaces either.

That leads me to believe that it may be possible to maintain virtually only those friendships that were developed virtually in the first place. But then again my closest friends in virtual world happen to be people living in my own city, who I have met on occasion. So again geography comes into play. 

It is all complicated as people mention in their relationship statuses on Facebook. Unless of course you take a dog’s view of the world, stop analyzing and just love whole heartedly. Guess that is why a dog is a dog is a dog. 

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces