“…saying that there is no difference between online and offline is like saying there is no difference between our minds when awake and when immersed in fantasy or dreams.” -John Suler

It is a curious thought that our minds function in two different states; one is awake and the other is asleep. The general consensus tends to be that when we are asleep our minds simply stop functioning. That is not true, however. Our minds continue to process everything we’ve had experienced up until that point. This particular process is reflected in our consciousness in the form of a dream —or a nightmare if you’ve had a bad experience recently. An ordinary person tends to have about five distinct dreams over the course of night but only one is remembered —if at all. During this phenomenon, our consciousness is immersed in “a world” that is outside of the reality. Does it sound familiar in any particular way? The closest parallel that can be drawn is indeed the immersion in digital world.

The online world, as we know it, has developed an omnipresence in the form of interactive technology and networking. Many individuals spend a good portion of their time socializing within this online world and engage in a form of communication that is exclusive to that particular setting; relying on text and images to convey an emotion rather than body language or gestures that are simply non-existent. As social media platforms encourage their users to enhance their influence on other individuals, an unavoidable competitive nature gets developed. Users adapt and behave in ways that perhaps they would not do otherwise. This leads into the arising concern of digital-dualism and how it impacts people in digital world.

The concept of digital-dualism is described as “the belief that online and offline are separate and distinct realms” (J. Suler, 2016). Similar to any other belief or notion, there are advocates and deniers of this particular concept. The difficulty of finding a common ground in this argument stems from digital-dualism itself being either “unnecessarily exaggerated” or “overly simplified” by the parties involved; the digital-duelists and the anti-digital-duelists. Perhaps a new, more unique approach, could help with the ongoing argument. If there is indeed a clear distinction between different states of our minds as mentioned, is it then possible to examine the concept of digital-dualism by being immersed in a fantasy? There’s only one way to find out.

The Voyage of Porter Phoca

Porter Phoca is “a being” who lives in “the digital sea”. He can be best described as an alchemist who wishes to set sail on “the digital sea” in order to study it more closely. He is friendly and enthusiastic in his work. He also happens to be a seal. This was our first engagement in conversation, which started the project.

The following is the mentioned letter.

Leaving the Laboratory

It has been such a long time since I’ve had a chance to breath in the air glazing the surface of the sea. Being cooped up in my laboratory for extensively long duration, I was beginning to think that my mind was being shrunk down by all the chemicals that I had inhaled. It is good to get some fresh air. This also gave me a reason to use my boat, which was rotting away by being simply tied to the deck that I never use.

As you know, my current intention is simply sailing around and observing the behavioral traits of specific sea creatures in order to get a better understanding of the life under the sea. The communicating device that you’ve sent me is giving me a bit of trouble but I’m certain that I can manage it. I will definitely share all the information that I can obtain, so you can add it into your research. Due to some concerns of mine, I figured that this letter-in-a-bottle communication could serve us better than other means. You never know who is really watching, after all. Anyway, I’ll attempt to contact you regardless but expect another letter with more expansive information soon. Until then, take good care.

PS – There appears to be a rumor on a legend that may be related to your research. I believe it is called “augmented reality”. I’m not sure what it is but you might want to keep that in mind.


This was a great start. I was really hoping Phoca to help me with my research as he had the expertise and the ability to be an in-person observer.

The concept of augmented reality was quite intriguing. Not being well-informed on the topic, I intended to look into it on my own. Apparently, the notion is that “our reality is both technological and organic, both digital and physical, all at once” (N. Jurgenson, 2011). The people who support augmented reality seem to be opposed to the concept of digital-dualism. After thinking on this issue for a while, I decided to consult with Phoca.

Phoca promised to look into it and immediately sent me a letter with some more information.

Chasing a Legend

It appears that there are conflicting reports on our legend. I have found two particular sources using this device of yours. On one hand, people believe in its existence as social media is becoming a norm and the line between two realities is blurring. On the other hand, people seem to advocate that two realities are not necessarily opposing entities in ontological sense but the sociological one creates observable distinctions. This particular contrast may be a key in discovering our legend, so you may wish to keep that in mind. Another aspect that is worth noting is apparently the anonymity that comes with certain territories. This may play into our original intent of observing the behavioral traits of marine life. Perhaps, there are indeed clear distinctions that we can shine a light on.

That is all from me at the moment. I will be in touch.


This was indeed informative. The point of view that he mentioned in terms of analyzing augmented reality, more so the digital-dualism in contrast, is pretty important. Using one of the sources that Phoca had looked at, we can extract that “from a sociological point of view, ‘digital’ is generally considered as related to an activity, or a part of reality, which is directly connected to some digital device” (G. Fontana, 2012). Thus, the focus is going to be on the type of behavior that the digital setting allows its users to adapt, and perhaps how they choose to present themselves to “fit in”, rather than specifically examining identity —which can be a bridge in augmentation of reality from an ontological perspective.

Phoca had informed me that he was headed to an island as his first destination.

I received the letter that was mentioned right away.

Island of Throng

I have safely made my way to the first island that was spotted on my sea chart. Though, I do not firmly believe that I can make the same claim when I attempt to leave soon afterwards. This region appears to be where the piranhas roam around and attack anyone who attempts to approach their home. A specific trait that I’ve observed is being part of a collective makes each piranha less of an individual. As in, none of them attempts to make a decision that is distinguishable from the rest. They seem to blindly follow whatever is the common norm. Possibly due the dissolvement of any accountability in form of a mob, they behave in an very aggressive way that I do not believe would be acceptable otherwise. I must admit, it is annoying. I should also mention that it is nearly impossible to tell one piranha from another. They all seem to be following pre-determined patterns.

I hope this was all informative for your research. Expect another letter soon.

PS – I’ve found some name tags with “Chan” on them. They appear to be tied together. I’m not sure what it is but I think I’ll be keeping it for now.


One of the biggest issues when it comes to social media is the formation of mob mentality; “when individuals get together in a group, lose their sense of self and start to act as the group without feeling responsibility for their individual actions” (B. Farrell, 2016). The major difference between the two realities appear to be the effort that is required to be a participant in this “mob”; in real world one must spend actual time and energy whereas in the digital world it completely lacks effort as typing on keyboard all it needs. The easy access and the allowance of anonymity could easily lead to temptation of participation. There is also the bystander effect to consider, which “is a phenomenon where individuals don’t offer any means to help a victim when other people are present” (B. Farrell, 2016). As social media is being witnessed by a global “audience”, people probably avoid chances of acting on online harassment and taking any responsibility for it. In reality, this wouldn’t be such an issue.

Phoca’s next destination was not that far from the previous one.

This is the letter he mentioned during our conversation.

Island of Shimmer

It is quite bright out here. I really hope that I can at least jot down some stuff before my eyes get sore from that intensive light. I have no idea where it is coming from.

Anyway, the region appears to be home to anglerfish. These creatures attempt to capture their prey by influencing their vision. The prey seems to be in total daze when it lays its eyes on the shining antenna of the anglerfish. I guess showing the prey something attractive ignites a desire to acquire it immediately. Poor souls. Although it is essentially a trick, it seems that the prey makes the ultimate decision about chasing after the light. A disturbing notion when you think about it. I wonder how many of them fall victim to these predators every day.

I will be writing you another letter soon. Take good care for now.

PS – Another island, another artifact it seems. I’ve found a metal tube with reflective surface. I can actually see my face on it. I wonder if there is anything to these artifacts. I guess, I’ll be keeping this one as well.


The topic of influencers on social media is still an ongoing debate among many people. Similar to any other newly introduced technology out there, companies attempt to take advantage of social media as a marketing tool. The stem of the debate seems to be the ethics behind certain types of exercises that companies attempt to utilize. Instead of promoting their products through traditional methods, companies now seem to be “recruiting” social media users to act as the product promoter in hopes that “authentic” engagement boosts sales, and it seems to be working “as 31 percent of consumers across the U.S. and Europe said they have purchased a product or service based on a social influencer post” (R. Carufel, 2018). As social media platforms also implement algorithms to boost influence of their users, people in general become less concerned with commercialization in digital settings. This implementation “will likely encourage greater participation by active users in order to boost their influence score” (K. Lewis) on social media platforms and possible create “a fake” environment where trust could become a serious issue. As mentioned before, social media platforms already encourage competitiveness. People do not walk around with “likes” and “follower count” in the reality. Only in a digital setting, they are motivated to promote themselves. Can we say then they become preys to something larger than they are? It’s certainly something to ponder on.

I’m certain that neither of us ever fell victim to it.

Our next conversation was a bit intense.

The letter that he felt the need to mention in that situation is the following.

Island of Ipseity

It feels like a miracle almost that I managed to make my way to this island. A tiger shark, as it appears, seem to be tailing me around. I do not know what my time limitation in terms of observing its behavior is going to be but I seem to be able to make some observations. It’s lurking around in plain sight. I wonder if it actually wishes me to know that it’s there. Another dissolvement of accountability? Perhaps, that might be the case. I try my best to avoid any motions that may signal something to it. I know this is a bit short but I’d like to head to the next destination as soon as possible. I started to feel really nervous here.

I’ll hopefully be talking to you soon. Take care.

PS – Once again, I’ve found an artifact. Well, more of a book actually. It has a curios image of a face on its cover. I might as well add it to my collection.


It should not be a surprise to anybody that social media is the perfect setting for identity theft. Certain factors such as “growing comfort with, and trust in, social platform providers; the need for social platforms to generate revenue; and a lack of standards or policing of these standards” (K. Lewis) make the users of social media platforms easy targets of identity theft. Due to limited oversight by governmental bodies, the organizations that control the digital settings do not concern themselves with the confidentiality of their “customers”. Therefore, anybody can easily acquire personal information from an individual and possibly attempt to use that information for a personal gain. We see news, or read articles, about people discovering their private pictures or other personal information shared online being used by “third parties” to spread misinformation, commercialized material, or even political agenda. Although the concept of identity theft is not exclusive to a digital setting, as it is quite common in real world as well, there is still a major difference that can be highlighted, and that is the sharing aspect. The personal information that people share with others on social media in hopes of creating “a self” lives on there forever. As we’ve discussed before, the anonymity in digital world leads to temptation of participation in unethical exercises, in this case that would be abusing sensitive information of another person. Similar to any other type of online harassment, the identity theft online might be perceived as “a norm” by the abuser and exercised without any conscious thoughts.

Isn’t social media great?

(The background flame animation is retrieved from: thumbs.gfycat.com/UnfinishedPossibleAnura-small.gif)

Well, not everything is doom and gloom, fortunately.

The following was our final conversation.

So, what is indeed the meaning behind that anchor? Perhaps, it’s a metaphor. The sea is vast and never-ending. If we, as people, do not anchor ourselves, then perhaps we become susceptible to the harsh waves that wash away small parts of our humanity. As beautiful as the sea is on the surface, the responsibility of sailing on it falls upon our own shoulders, and our conscious. Is digital-dualism still an existing concept that needs to be under a spotlight? Or is it a fading one that no longer have any impact on individuals? As difficult as it may be to offer a firm response, I’d personally suggest that we should be aware of its implications and simply do not dismiss it offhandedly. Although it is possible to argue that two realities, the digital and the analog, are becoming more and more augmented as the time goes on, our values and principles thankfully remain intact for us to maintain a sound conscious.

That is not to say there won’t be any challenges faced when “you set sail on the sea”. Here are some steps that anyone can follow for “a safe trip”:

1- Do not engage with piranhas in “an argument” as you won’t be able to reason with them. Observe them from afar if you must, but do not make yourself susceptible to their “hive mind control”. Remain an individual.
2- Be mindful of your surroundings and do not merely chase after a shimmering light of an anglerfish. Make sure that you know where the light is coming from.
3-  Do not panic in case you find yourself being tailed by a tiger shark. Avoid “wearing shiny objects” and making any sort of “splash on water” that could make you an easy target.
I was genuinely happy to work on this project with Phoca. As he makes his way back to his laboratory, I’d like to thank him for every bit of contribution he provided, and the friendly demeanor, along with his cheerfulness, that kept me positive. See you on another adventure, Phoca!

The End (?)

Jurgenson, N. (2011). Digital dualism versus augmented reality. Cyborgology. Retrieved from https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/02/24/digital-dualism-versus-augmented-reality/

Fontana, G. (2012). How to kill digital dualism without erasing differences. Cyborgology. Retrieved from https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/09/16/how-to-kill-digital-dualism-without-erasing-differences/

Suler, C. (2016). The straw man of digital dualism. Fifteeneightyfour. Retrieved from http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2016/01/the-straw-man-of-digital-dualism/

Farrell, B. (2016). Social media: the new mob mentality?. Road less travelled. Retrieved from https://roadlesstravelled.me/2016/06/30/safety-in-numbers-the-new-mob-mentality/

Carufel, R. (2018). The psychology of following —how social influencers impact purchasing behavior. PR solutions. Retrieved from https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/public-relations/psychology-following-social-influencers-impact-purchasing-behavior/

Lewis, K. (n.d.). How social media networks facilitate identity theft and fraud. Entrepreneurs’ Organiation. Retrieved from https://www.eonetwork.org/octane-magazine/special-features/social-media-networks-facilitate-identity-theft-fraud

https://twitter.com/PhocaPorter https://hypothes.is/users/Porter_Phoca https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WwHCcK1A5_IkttexcthBA6lVtQl0C7kG7OLCL9oOWZ8/edit