When having a conversation through an online service, you may encounter a scenario like this:

(Messenger chat)

  • Me: Hello Stranger!
  • Stranger: Hello!
  • Me: What do you think of Barack Obama?
  • Stranger: He's a good friend! We play tennis together!
  • Me: Oh? You meet him in real life?

Whenever I say "real life" or "in reality" during this kind of online conversations, I hesitate and have this horrible itch where I tell myself "gosh, this doesn't make sense at all, how is this NOT real life?"

Is there a better term to use in this kind of situation?

I don't want to say "in reality" because, well, even an online chat is reality...well, even if you disagree with that, is there an alternative anyway?

  • 1
    Why do you want to add "in real life" in your conversation? Easily you could say "face to face" or "out of here". If you want to discuss about what "real life" is and why internet can/cannot be a kind of it in some of people opinions or common conversations so it seems rational! – Persian Cat Feb 10 '13 at 23:52
  • @user37324: I don't want to add "in real life" in my conversation, that's why I'm asking this ;D. – Omega Feb 11 '13 at 0:48
  • So why did you think to this? :) – Persian Cat Feb 11 '13 at 0:48
  • @user37324: Because I was in the messenger chat example scenario I made in the question, and wanted to say "Oh? You meet him in [outside the world of internet]" - the only phrase that would pop up into my mind was "in real life" but I dislike it, so I'm asking for a proper alternative because I don't want to add it in my conversation at all. – Omega Feb 11 '13 at 1:18
  • It is clear in your topic. Sometimes when you hear a word/phrase repeatedly from the others even if you dislike it you think to it. – Persian Cat Feb 11 '13 at 1:28

At the computer magazine where I work, we have a somewhat similar problem in identifying physical stores that customers can walk into, purchase physical items from, and leave again carrying the items, as opposed to online stores where transactions occur digitally. Our standard way of distinguishing between them to is to call the physical stores "brick-and-mortar stores." I wouldn't suggest saying "I've met him in the brick-and-mortar world," but you might try "I've met him in the flesh" or "I've met him in person at [name of specific location here]."

When you think about it, this situation isn't all that different from the problem of distinguishing between someone whom you know through direct physical meeting in the material world and someone whom you know strictly through pen-and-paper correspondence.

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During the Pirate Bay trial, when Peter Sunde was asked by the prosecution "When was the first time you met IRL?", he answered:

[...] We don't use the expression IRL. [...] We don't like that expression. We say AFK - Away From Keyboard. We think that the internet is for real.

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  • +1 for AFK - Makes a lot more sense. – Omega Feb 11 '13 at 21:02

Here are some alternatives that range on the spectrum of speech registers from colloquial to stilted:

  • "For reals?"
  • "Did that really happen?"
  • "Is that true?"
  • "Did you actually meet him?"
  • "Is that a fact?"
  • "I question the veracity of that statement."

In each case, something is implied about the distinction between the real (true, factual, actual, veracious) and the imaginary (false, fictional, hypothetical, apocryphal) worlds.

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Offline works well for me, see Wikipedias article on “Online and Offline”.

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Well, it's better than facetime or meatspace.

I similarly dislike "real life". While personally is strictly got the same logical argument against it, I do prefer it. One could just say "met him" (to chat online, is not to meet, to some minds), or physically or "outside of chat".

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Consider "in the tangible world," "in tangible reality," and "in honest to goodness reality."

tangible: capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial

honest to goodness: real or genuine

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