I am fascinated with the shift when we meet people for real, with whom we originally connected with virtually. By virtual, I include the phone along with the web. Of course this is what the online dating sites have been struggling with for years – how to make that shift less traumatic and disappointing? I have found from past experiences myself, that a lot of interest and excitement can be generated in connecting with certain people online and on the phone. However when we meet, there is a shift to another level that has not been addressed virtually. Of course the odds are stacked against these levels matching the real, live experience of another or at the very least, offering real potential of connection. If virtual operates through the mind, then we have a lot to catch up with on other levels, when we meeting for real. Often real-ationships have to be reworked from the virtual or in some cases abandoned altogether.
The word virtual used to mean “influencing by physical virtues or capabilities,” from M.L. virtualis, from L. virtus “excellence, potency, efficacy,” lit. “manliness, manhood”. The meaning of “being something in essence or fact, though not in name” is first recorded 1654, probably via sense of “capable of producing a certain effect” (1432). Computer sense of “not physically existing but made to appear by software” is attested from 1959.
The word real however seems to have always meant “relating to things” (esp. property), from O.Fr. reel, from L.L. realisres “matter, thing,” of unknown origin. Meaning “genuine” is recorded from 1559; that of “actually existing” is attested from 1597; sense of “unaffected, no-nonsense” is from 1847. “actual,” from L.