I don't know who is better off: people who keep pressing the Alt+Tab button and alternate between their real and virtual lives; or those who have not let instant messaging -- either by purpose or ignorance -- interfere with their real lives.
I, like many people these days, lead two lives. One real, another virtual. Once again, I do not know which one is more worthwhile. But I would say living in an online society has immense advantages. When the real world gets on to your nerves, you can seek the comforting embrace of the online world. If your online girlfriend -- someone you've never ever seen -- ditches you, you cannot share your sorrows with your real-life friends, for they will laugh at you and think you are mad. But if your real-life girlfriend ditches you, you can always find comfort in the invisible arms of an online girlfriend. She will console you and give you the right advice how to cope with the tragedy.
Permanent residents of the real world will always see the presence of an online friend in anyone's life as nothing short of madness. "How can someone who you've never ever seen or spoken to be your friend?" they are bound to ask. But believe me, online friends are the ones you trust and cherish the most. They can be more real than real. They love you for the talents you are born with, and not because of the status you might have earned in the society because of those talents. It is irrelevant to them whether you drive a Maruti 800 or a Honda City, for they are not out to marry you. Though there are times when you wish they did.
When I say online friends, I mean people you've never met, or people you've met only a couple of times and then lost them to distances and who went on to become as good as those you've never met. Or, people who live in the same city who you rarely meet and have only online communication with. They are the ones who people your virtual world and make it worth living. The comfort of distance, the urge to share, and the power of the written word -- when these three factors combine, people reach out to each other in a way which real-life lovers are bound to miss out on.
In real life, you are so perpetually conscious of external factors -- looks, money (or the lack of it), worries, jealousy, possessiveness and so on -- that everything happens except the union of minds. Each never gets to see the real other, even though they live in the real world. Whereas, in the virtual world, you get to see nothing but the real. True, you never get to see them in flesh and blood. But then, you don't get to see God in flesh and blood either. You only feel his presence in your life, and that can be so assuring. In the same way, you feel assured every time you see her come online. You might be too busy to even talk to her, yet you can feel her presence. Even when you talk, it is the fingers and not the lips that do the talking. Yet you can feel her presence -- as if she is looking over your shoulder, reading the sentences as you type. That's the magic of presence: something that cannot be replicated when two people happen to be present in a real-life room.