That's the world created by the Internet. It's a 3-dimensional electronic environment where a user as an avatar can interact with a viewer to change variables. Now you don't have to go out to socialize. All you need to do is to turn on your Internet.
As of now, it is concentrated on games and, sadly, other not-so-clean fun gimmicks, like dating services and soft-porn. But it need not stop there. Many other useful possibilities exist.
This is definitely something new to me, and to most of my generation, I believe. When someone talked about it recently, I can't help but feel suddenly old, useless and irrelevant.
I realize I had to double time to catch up with the developments. Interesting things are now happening in this virtual world. I have to break that digital divide. I hope the transition will not be very painful and costly.
In short, at issue here is the challenge today for most of us to acquire media literacy. We can't get stuck in one place or in one time-frame anymore. While we have our own niches, we need to continually interact with more and more people in the richness of their variety.
This is especially meaningful to me, since only recently did I get reminded that a person grows precisely in being a person to the extent that he is able to develop more and better relationships with God and with others.
We can have our preferences and all that, but at the end of the day what really matters is when we are able to be open to everyone no matter how different one may be from us.
Back to the virtual world, many wonderful uses can be found. You want to browse through new books not yet available locally, you can do so in the virtual bookstore.
Or you want to read books in a library, attend classes on economics, or visit a museum, or pray in a particular chapel, you can do so in the virtual world. You'll be afforded a certain degree of interaction with other characters there. Your life grows in the virtual world.
I was told that there are now millions actively participating in this community. There is also the possibility of changing your identity, or having different identities. Though the user profile is still elitist in character, it is believed that that will soon change.
As can be readily seen, the possibilities the virtual world offers can be mind-boggling. And thus the need to humanize and Christianize it is becoming urgent. It cannot be allowed to develop mainly through purely economic and social criteria.
That's why I was happy to know that a group of young men, professionals and experts in this field, are studying the possibility to put heart and soul into this exciting stage of our development.
They're drumming up a number of activities and conferences to familiarize more and more people about the possibilities of the virtual world. They are inviting those interested to help in any way they can. There's a lot of work to do.
There's a need to create a good, healthy culture of the virtual world. It should help people to become better persons, where pursuit of knowledge and widening of network would make them more open to the others.
We have to prevent the virtual world from becoming a center for vices and empty and frivolous, if not sinful, pursuits. Sad to say, this is what we are seeing often these days. With the wrong attitude, people can worsen in selfishness and narrow-mindedness when they use the virtual world.
For sure, a certain level of human and moral maturity is needed here. To distinguish between the essential and non-essential, the prudent and the dangerous is a skill to master if one doesn't like getting lost in the maze.
We have to learn to be very discriminating, without being discriminatory. Those who will be working in this field should have a good and firm grasp of what really constitutes the good of man and his proper development.
In this regard, we cannot afford to be sophomoric.
(Fr. Cimagala is the Chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE), Talamban, Cebu City. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)