Real life  

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Woman at her Toilet (c. 1661-65) by Jan Steen. This detail shows the legs with sock marks
Woman at her Toilet (c. 1661-65) by Jan Steen. This detail shows the legs with sock marks

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Real life is a phrase used to distinguish actual events, people, and activities from fictional worlds or characters, from interactions on the Internet, or, pejoratively, from certain lifestyles or activities that the speaker deems less important, worthy, or otherwise "real."


Distinct from the Internet

On the Internet, "real life" refers to life in the real world. Online, the acronym "IRL" stands for "in real life", with the meaning "not on the Internet". For example, while Internet users may speak of having "met" someone that they have contacted via online chat or in an online gaming context, to say that they met someone "in real life" is to say that they literally encountered them in a common physical location.

Some sociologists engaged in the study of the Internet have predicted that someday, a distinction between online and real-life worlds may seem "quaint", noting that certain types of online activity, such as sexual intrigues, have already made a full transition to complete legitimacy and "reality".

Distinct from fiction

When used to distinguish from fictional worlds or 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." --Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

Similarly, the phrase can be used to distinguish an actor from a character, e.g. "In real life, he has a British accent" or "In real life, he lives in Los Angeles."

There is a related but slightly distinct usage among role-players and historical reenactors, to distinguish the fantasy or historical context from the actual world and the role-player or reenactor from the character, e.g. "What do you do in real life?" or "Where do you live in real life?"

Other uses

The phrase is also used to distinguish academic life from work in other sectors, in a manner similar to the term "real world". A person with experience in "real life" or the "real world" has experience beyond book learning. It may also be used, often pejoratively, to distinguish other insular subcultures, work environments, or lifestyles from more traditional social and professional activities.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Real life" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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