Created By: Westrim on January 9, 2012 Last Edited By: Westrim on June 4, 2014
Troped

Virtual Danger Denial

Characters express disbelief that something digital can have an effect on anyones life.

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Trope
Despite the importance of telecommunications in our daily lives, many people tend to underestimate just how important they are, especially as we creep closer to Everything Is Online. This can lead to disbelieving statements or outright denial when digital trouble has analog effects. Even if traffic lights are going haywire, and water mains are popping from overpressure, they may protest against any suggestion that it has to do with computers.

Contrast Your Mind Makes It Real, where the persons mind is what is being impacted due to its suggestibility. May occur during a Holodeck Malfunction. May involve Cyberspace.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Summer Wars most of the family doesn't realize how serious the problem of the internet being taken over by a rogue AI is, inadvertently sabotaging attempts to defeat it twice- first when the AI still demonstrated only a single avatar, and again by removing ice that was cooling a supercomputer when it was on the verge of containing it. Only after it aims a space probe at a nuclear power station do they realize the magnitude.

Film - Live-Action
  • Star Trek: First Contact has a woman from the mid 21st century exposed to holodeck technology for the first time. She is surprised when Picard's holographic Tommy Gun has very real (and very lethal) effects on the two Borg that follow them in.

Literature
  • At the beginning of American Gods, Shadow expresses lack of faith in his electronic plane ticket - where he doesn't have a physical ticket, just a number to give at check-in - because it just doesn't seem real to him. It's nice foreshadowing of his siding with the old gods against the new, technology-based ones.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Aliens Of The Week beam four DS9 crew members into a holographic game parlour. At the end, the situation gets quite dangerous and the crew members seem to die - only, to their own surprise, to turn up perfectly okay back in Quark's bar. May be justified, because holographic simulations actually can turn lethal in the Star Trek universe.
  • A strong example in NUMB3RS. A Playful Hacker cheerfully pisses off a number of powerful agencies online, legal and illegal, and is in total denial that they could come after him in real life.
  • In the La Femme Nikita series, a hacker attacks both the Designated Hero Section One and a rival black-ops intelligence agency and both sides pull an Enemy Mine to track him and find him. When they do, the hacker shows surprise at the fact that they managed to track him-and it's sort of implied that he thought he was playing some kind of war game.
Western Animation
  • There's an episode of The Fairly OddParents where Timmy and friends start out thinking this, but since the game is magic, it can really kill them, so Timmy has to save them.

Real Life
  • As this Penny Arcade strip shows, there was initially some reluctance to deal with Real Money Trade related scams, thanks to a perception that the goods weren't "real" anyway.
  • Laws regarding Intellectual Property are meant to avert this trope by giving certain rights to people who produce intangible products (digital media being the most recent).
  • This phenomenon is what makes the problem of cyberbullying so severe. Adults generally take even physical bullying with a grain of salt, so in cases when it's not even "real" to them, they just laugh.

Community Feedback Replies: 48
  • January 9, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I'm not sure if this is what you are going for (your description is kind of bare bones and the one example you cite is not one I am familiar with) but in Caprica, the Soldiers of the One were morally outraged at how this attitude was applied by other people to V-World. Specifically, the first episode showed V-World locations where young people could engage in horrific acts of violence supposedly without real world consequences. However, the supposed lack of real world consequences is cited by various characters, primarily Zoe and Zoe-A, as well as talk-show host Baxter Sarno, as the major cause of Caprican society's moral decline, meaning that these people are making the argument that there are real life consequences to actions and behaviors in virtual reality.
  • January 9, 2012
    ScanVisor
  • January 9, 2012
    whizzerd
    I'm not sure if this would count, but Tai from Digimon Adventure starts to become even more hot-headed and reckless once he realises that, since he's in a Digital World, he can't actually die. He suffers from a Heroic BSOD for a while once he sees that just because it's digital doesn't mean that he can't be hurt or even killed.
    • Then in Digimon Adventure 02, Ken thinks that the Digital World is just a game and treats all the Digimon like crap, not realising that they're just as real as him. Once he does he spends the rest of the show trying to atone for his sins.
  • January 9, 2012
    cityofmist
    At the beginning of American Gods, Shadow expresses lack of faith in his electronic plane ticket - where he doesn't have a physical ticket, just a number to give at check-in - because it just doesn't seem real to him. It's nice foreshadowing of his siding with the old gods against the new, technology-based ones.
  • January 9, 2012
    arromdee
    Bad name. It's not about virtual reality--not everything done on computers is virtual reality. Maybe "Digital threats have no consequences".
  • January 9, 2012
    Westrim
    It's not intended to be literal- the point is that the character thinks the situation can't affect their reality because it's not part of their reality. The character thinks its virtual reality, or whatever their hazy approximation thereof is.
  • February 9, 2012
    sliz225
    A strong example in N3mbers. A Playful Hacker cheerfully pisses off a number of powerful agencies online, legal and illegal, and is in total denial that they could come after him in real life.
  • February 10, 2012
    Sailor11sedna
    Dennou Coil, anyone? Code Lyoko averts this hard.
  • February 10, 2012
    LobsterMagnus
    In an episode of Deep Space Nine, the Aliens Of The Week beam four DS9 crew members into a holographic game parcour. At the end, the situation gets quite dangerous and the crew members seem to die - only, to their own surprise, to turn up perfectly okay back in Quark's bar. May be justified, because holographic simulations actually can turn lethal in the Star Trek universe.
  • February 10, 2012
    condottiera
    There's an episode of The Fairly Odd Parents where Timmy and friends start out thinking this, but since the game is magic, it can really kill them, so Timmy has to save them.
  • February 10, 2012
    GuyIncog
    ^^ Star Trek First Contact has a woman from the 21st century exposed to holodeck technology for the first time. She is surprised when Picard's holographic tommy gun has very real (and very lethal) effects on the two Borg that follow them in.
  • February 26, 2012
    Dcoetzee
    Suggested names:
    • If It's Not Real, It Doesn't Matter
    • If It's Digital, It Doesn't Matter
    • What Isn't Real Can't Hurt You
    • Not Real, Not A Problem
    • Digital Threats Don't Matter

    And various permutations of those.
  • February 26, 2012
    Westrim
    Good suggestion, using the one I liked best. Thanks.
  • March 7, 2012
    KingZeal
    Wrong YKTTW.
  • March 17, 2012
    Westrim
    This appears to fit the requirements for launch, but I'd like to check if there's any more concerns about the explanation.
  • February 4, 2013
    Westrim
    Another one I lost track of. I said it looks ready to go, and after going through it I still think that's the case. I'd like any comments, concerns, or hats that anyone has.
  • February 5, 2013
    Nazetrime
    Personally, I would have the phrasing be "digital trouble has real world effects". The word "analogue" tends to commonly be read as "similar".
  • February 5, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    Another example similar to the Numb3rs one (I think) appears on the first 'La Femme Nikita' series. A hacker attacks both the Designated Hero Section One and a rival black-ops intelligence agency and both sides pull an Enemy Mine to track him and find him. And when they do, the hacker shows surprise at the fact that they managed to track him-and it's sort of implied that he only thought he was playing some kind of war game, which he was winning, BTW.
  • May 17, 2014
    Westrim
    This needs several more examples before launch, and the description is a little skimpy.
  • May 17, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced the examples + sorted examples by media.
  • May 17, 2014
    DAN004
    Can somebody explain what this thing is?
  • May 17, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    trope is basically "virtual stuff are thought to have no real life repercussions".

    Terrible name though.
  • May 17, 2014
    Westrim
    A paragraph explaining what this thing is has been thoughtfully provided at the top.
  • May 17, 2014
    DAN004
  • May 18, 2014
    partner555
  • May 18, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ this is about denial/stigma, not about Cyberspace actually not affecting reality.
  • May 18, 2014
    partner555
  • May 18, 2014
    Folamh3
    I'm not sure if "Not Real" is a good trope title. Information that exists digitally is no less "real" than information which exists in a more tangible form. Suggest a renaming to reflect this.
  • May 18, 2014
    reterusu
    The current title suggests to me that it's not just about tech, but also dreams, illusions, the like. Should the YTTTW be expanded to include those examples too?
  • May 18, 2014
    Bisected8
    What about Virtual Isnt Vital? That would cover non-technological virtual things as well.

    • As this Penny Arcade strip shows, there was initially some reluctance to deal with Real Money Trade related scams, thanks to a perception that the goods weren't "real" anyway.

    • Laws regarding Intellectual Property are meant to avert this trope by giving certain rights to people who produce intangible products (digital media being the most recent).
  • May 19, 2014
    Westrim
  • May 19, 2014
    partner555
  • May 19, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Virtual Danger Denial sounds best.
  • May 19, 2014
    DAN004
    Kinda murky with the word "virtual", but if everyone else get what it refers to then I'm ok with that.
  • May 19, 2014
    Tiiba
    The current name suggests that people ignore a threat because it doesn't exist.

    Voting for Digital Threats Don't Matter
  • May 19, 2014
    BaffleBlend
    Real Life
    • This phenomenon is what makes the problem of cyberbullying so severe. Adults generally take even physical bullying with a grain of salt, so in cases when it's not even "real" to them, they just laugh.
  • May 19, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ me likey.
  • May 20, 2014
    Westrim
    Changing the title. Digital Threats Don't Matter doesn't work, because the point of the trope is that they do matter, so it's misleading. The denial is a key aspect.
  • May 20, 2014
    reterusu
    At 5 hats. Might want to wait for more examples though
  • May 20, 2014
    Westrim
    I agree. And if anyone has more suggestions on related tropes or tweaking the description, they are welcome.
  • May 20, 2014
    Larkmarn
  • May 20, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ if everybody else get the joke, it's good. I find it confusable, though.
  • May 20, 2014
    MorningStar1337
    Do we allow real life examples? because I think that the non-internet denizen's reaction to stuff like Cyberbullying, The NSA and maybe SOPA/TPP would get a mention here.
  • May 20, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I don't think we do, they're controversial.
  • May 21, 2014
    Arivne
    • De-Blue Linked the title.
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Blue Linked Examples section media titles(s).
    • Capitalized (tommy gun).
    • Corrected spelling (parkour -> parlour).
  • May 25, 2014
    Westrim
    Well, now 2 hats are gone. I should point out that this is not up for grabs, not sure who added that tag. This should launch this week, but the new examples need adding and the intro needs connections.
  • May 25, 2014
    DAN004
    Would need to flesh out description a bit, too.
  • June 4, 2014
    Westrim
    I frankly don't see anything more to add to the description. It's simple and straightforward. If anyone has anything more to add or a hat to give, please do so. I think I'll launch this tomorrow.
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