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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Real life (RL) is a term that has different meanings, depending on the context in which it is used, but generally denotes a broader notion of reality than what would be assumed in the current context.


Usage online and in fiction

In an online setting, "real life" refers to life in the real world. It is generally used in reference to life or consensus reality, in contrast to an environment seen as fiction or fantasy, such as virtual reality, dreams, novels, or movies. Online, the acronym "IRL" stands for "in real life", with the meaning "not on the Internet".[1]

In its use as a contrast of fictional worlds or fictional universes against the consensus reality of the reader, the term has a long history:

Authors, as a rule, attempt to select and portray types rarely met with in their entirety, but these types are nevertheless more real than real life itself.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky[2]

In its use for differentiating personal worlds created on the Internet from "offline" life, the term naturally has a much shorter history and a more unclear future. Sociologists engaged in the study of the Internet have theorized that someday a distinction between online and real-life worlds may seem "quaint", noting that certain types of online activity, such as business transactions, have already made a full transition to complete legitimacy and "reality".[3]

"Real life" can be a controversial term, as it can serve as value judgement to describe "productive" activities, like work and the support of one's family, in contrast to "unproductive" leisure activities. Indeed, outside of fictional worlds, the phrase is often used to contrast a more traditional way of living against a pejoratively depicted existence, such as academic life, in a manner similar to the term "real world".[4] A person with experience in "real life" or the "real world" has experience beyond book learning.


Related terminology

The abbreviation "RL" stands for "real life". For example, one can speak of "meeting in RL" someone whom one has met in a chat or on an Internet forum, or of an inability to use the Internet for a time due to "RL problems". The phrase "in real life" is often similarly replaced with the acronym "IRL". Some prefer the expression "face-to-face", abbreviated "f2f". Some Internet users use the idioms face time or meatspace, which contrasts with the term "cyberspace".[5]

Religious connotation

"Real life" is also a synonym for the Christian understanding of eternal life—the outcome of being "born anew" or "born again" mentioned in the Bible (see John 3:7). In contemporary usage, it includes the notion of favorable "abundant" life (John 10:10), leading to its use in organisational names such as Real Life Church.[6] In this context, "real life" begins in this life by a personal decision to commit one's life to Jesus' rulership, overlaps this life until death, then continues beyond in the presence of a divine Creator. Because of this overlap, it is not spirit vs. flesh, as in ancient Greek philosophy, but an integration that elevates humanity beyond this life in substance and time (eternity). Christians believe Jesus inaugurated human eternal life by his resurrection (return to life), commemorated at Easter.

Societal connotation

"Real life" is also used to mean life after education or to mean adulthood or the world of adults as opposed to childhood or adolescence.

See also


  1. ^ "" search for IRL"". 
  2. ^ "Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Idiot: Part IV: Chapter I". The Free Online Library. Retrieved 2006-05-06. 
  3. ^ Don Slater (2002). "Social Relationships and Identity On-line and Off-line". in Leah, Sonia, Lievrouw, and Livingstone. Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICTs. Sage Publications Inc. pp. 533–543. ISBN 0761965106. 
  4. ^ "Definition of "real life"". WordNet Search. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  5. ^ "meatspace (MEET.spays) n.". Word Spy. Paul McFedries and Logophilia Limited. 1996-11-14. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Real Life Church". Retrieved 2009-04-11. 


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