She ignored my phone calls, text messages, and emails. As for [...], she also seemed to have taken measures: she quit our shared classes and stopped frequenting the places where we used to cross paths.

I searched for the antonyms of virtual but I think they sound a bit weird. As for real life/world? As for actual life/world?

  • 14
    Most people would call it the real world (with stress on the word "real" to emphasize that this is in contrast to the online/virtual world). May 8, 2015 at 13:31
  • 3
    As for the rest , she seemed to have taken measures :...
    – user66974
    May 8, 2015 at 14:03
  • 3
    "offline" is a possibility, or "offline world". (made as a comment not an answer as I can't be bothered to find any links)
    – AndyT
    May 8, 2015 at 14:26
  • 1
    @AndyT - although 'offline' is the opposite of 'online' as 'virtual', the problem with 'offline' is that it describes absence online rather than presence in the real world. When we say 'offline', we still imply 'online' in the sense of absence.
    – Oleksii
    May 8, 2015 at 14:33
  • 2
    In some cases, the opposite of "digital" is "analog".
    – GEdgar
    May 8, 2015 at 15:08

10 Answers 10


The cyber-cool among us use the phrase meatspace to refer to the physical world.


  • 3
    I've also heard IRL but it doesn't sound as nice.
    – Alex W
    May 8, 2015 at 13:50
  • 5
    "unplugged" is what I hear other parents/teachers use.
    – Val
    May 8, 2015 at 13:55
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    @geoO I've always understood it to be rather deliberately crude. It's also definitely not something I'd expect a majority of people to know, as it's from techie/cyberpunk vernacular, rather than a general term.
    – asfallows
    May 8, 2015 at 17:12
  • 7
    Not only is it intended (in part) to be crude, it goes way back. From Gibson's "Neuromancer" (1984): "In the bars he'd frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat." This is, of course, literature rather than (gasp! the irony!) the real world, but it's seminal literature. See also Terry Bisson's "They're Made Out of Meat" terrybisson.com/page6/page6.html May 8, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    @CactusWoman - See how cool you can become by paying attention on ELU?
    – J.R.
    May 8, 2015 at 23:03

Consider re-working the phrase to accommodate In Person

eg "She seemed to have taken measures to avoid me in person as well -- she quit our shared classes..."

  • I give a +1 for 'in person' - a great alternative but it is not quite opposite for 'calls, text messages, emails', otherwise, what is the opposite of 'in person'?
    – Oleksii
    May 8, 2015 at 18:05

Virtual is a one-word description for 'phone, messages, emails'.

Real life or real world describes the opposite.

As for the real world, she also seemed to have taken measures: she quit our shared classes and stopped frequenting the places where we used to cross paths.

Also, Collins American English Dictionary has the real as noun


  1. anything that actually exists, or reality in general (with the)

So a shorter and more colloquial usage will be

As for the real, she also seemed to have taken measures: she quit our shared classes and stopped frequenting the places where we used to cross paths.

An update on 'real' for phone vs 'virtual' for computer.

Some people insist that a phone conversation is real rather than virtual (see Josh61's comment below). Also, some marketing experts relate phone communication to real as in this article, 'Virtual vs. Real Life Communication: What Do Workers Prefer?' on The Business News Daily:

Forty percent of workers say they worked with someone for an extended period of time without ever meeting that co-worker in person or talking on the phone.

But from the point of view of pure physics as science, the real is tangible; consider this example on Michigan State University website:

Real images are those where light actually converges, whereas virtual images are locations from where light appears to have converged.

Finally in the OP's given example, from the point of view of the guy, everything is virtual except for face-to face meeting.

  • 1
    Would a computer or a phone call not be part of real life?
    – user66974
    May 8, 2015 at 14:42
  • @Josh61 - a great question, I have researched on this and updated my answer.
    – Oleksii
    May 8, 2015 at 15:38
  • 1
    I think anything using "real" in this sense is quickly going to seem dated if not like complete luddism. Imagine someone taking about "real wagons" or "real carriages" in an age of cars. May 8, 2015 at 16:50
  • I most frequently hear real life and IRL to refer to something not on the Internet. this answer has my vote.
    – user85526
    May 9, 2015 at 1:32

In the good old days of the internet the abbreviation IRL (in real life) was the term that was always used. It was popular enough that people would say "IRL" IRL

  • I like this the most. Three letter initialisms just sound so stilted. If there were a proper acronym (like scuba or radar) that flowed it would be perfect. Still, in writing and not in speech it works quite well. You get my upvote.
    – geoO
    May 9, 2015 at 16:28
  • ... what do you mean by "was"? The use of "IRL" is incredibly common today. May 9, 2015 at 17:10

The opposite of the virtual world would be the physical world. I also like face-to-face or "in person".


The Outernet Whilst it is not a real word, people will know what you mean.

  • 2
    If you had used that word with me, I would not have known what you meant.
    – Dan Bron
    May 8, 2015 at 18:10
  • 2
    I know exactly what you mean.
    – MonkeyZeus
    May 8, 2015 at 18:19
  • 2
    'inter' is not an opposite of 'outer'. 'Outernet' would be valid as a match of 'innernet' which does not exist.
    – Oleksii
    May 8, 2015 at 19:08
  • 2
    @javaNoobs, it doesn't need to be linguistically sound, as it's just a slang word based on a pun (as "internet" is often pronounced "innernet").
    – Nicole
    May 8, 2015 at 20:50
  • 2
    @Nicole If you want people to understand what you mean when you make up a word, you'd better aim for something that can be properly pieced together from its linguistic meaning. "Outernet" sounds, to me, like some sort of network separate from the Internet but still in the digital world. May 9, 2015 at 17:06

Another expression that is similar to IRL is AFK, Away From Keyboard. Not sure how applicable it is to this case, but I thought that it was worth mentioning.


Meatspace is probably the most widely-recognized answer. But if you're looking for something equally nerdy and a bit less metaphorical, consider the Big Room:

The extremely large room with the blue ceiling and intensely bright light . . .


In written exchange I've usually seen it expressed as IRL ("in real life"), but (unfortunately) I all-too-often think of it as OTL -- "off the leash". ;-)


Routine. In your example, routine looks like a good fit.

    a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

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