Have you heard of Second Life?
I heard someone here on Empowher mention it recently and I had vaguely heard of it before. I joined about a week ago to see what it was like, was given some kind of medieval sounding name and never went back. My life with Second Life lasted about 15 seconds. It's a luxury of time I can ill afford.
However, millions can. Or do, whether they have the time or not. Second Life is a virtual world where people hold down jobs, form and end relationships, marry, divorce, buy property and it can all translate into real dollars.
Groups are also formed- from rape survivors to cancer patients to sailing enthusiasts - all in an effort to support, encourage, and socialize.
Humans are social by nature. We are intrinsic bridge builders. We will find ways to communicate even when physically isolated. Prisons have pen-pal programs and people who are confined at home find outlets like Second Life, Facebook or other social networking sites in order to stave off boredom or loneliness.
Second Life has been in the news recently and headlines are startling. Woman Arrested for Killing her Second Life Husband! Actually, she was arrested for hacking into his computer accounts and killing off his virtual character that he plays on Second Life.
Now this week, behold a couple in England who are divorcing in real life because the woman caught him having sex with a cartoon prostitute. This is the stuff that makes me kind of put my hand over my mouth to stop myself from laughing. His virtual self - a 3D cartoon called an avatar - was seen doing his thing with another avatar who was 'known' to be a prostitute. Maybe she thinks if he's willing to have his avatar have sex with another avatar, he'll do it in real life? Think I'm about to cover my mouth again...
Even more interesting are the comments below the news story, from readers who are members of Second Life. One long response from an angry reader understands the frustrations of Second Life and talks about how she has felt bossed around my other members, sent off to do chores as they sit back and do nothing and how she gets angry at it all but tries to use her anger as a tool to work out why she gets angry at avatars who disrespect her avatar, and who yell at her or curse her out. She has learned that "revenge is best served cold" to her Second Life enemies.
Or.......can't she just shut down her computer or unregister her membership?
Ok, admittedly I am old school. I can't imagine what it must be like to spend hours a day, pretending to be a cartoon who gets into fake situations with other cartoons and to have all the emotion that ensues follow to me into real life. How daft is all this, I wonder? It doesn't even really exist! It may - it the minds of the members - but there is no real or human contact, and none of these people have actually met each other! Would they not be best served working on their real life relationships, rather than getting "revenge" on cartoons that upset them in a fantasy life?
I do understand how important social networking on-line is, nor do I think people who live for Second Life are geeks, social outcasts or losers. Professors, lawyers, accountants and mechanics have second lives! I have a Facebook account, I belong to a private parental support group for women, and many of us have met in real life and we are fast friends. Being upset with someone on a social networking site that you actually know, is one thing. Being in tears, lacking sleep and seething with anger over a cartoon that belongs to someone you never met who really lives in China is quite another. I throw my hands in the air - I know I just don't get it. Many Second Life members are not just logging in for a fun half hour every day. They spend hours a day there. If one is spending at inordinate amount of life in a fake life, surely something is lacking in their real one. A man or woman who spends their entire evening in a virtual world has to be ignoring his or her real one. How many spouses eat dinner alone and how many kids are forced to watch endless hours of TV because Mom or Dad is building a new life on the internet?
What kind of issue is this? Is this a mental health issue? One of addiction? One of anxiety, depression or social isolation? Or are these people simply choosing their path in life, and who am I to decide that their path is due to a mental problem?!
Lines are crossed when people divorce over a life that exists only in the mind. When people develop a hatred of someone they have never met. When one avatar constantly bullies another, 'cheats' on a virtual spouse or steals. The feelings of hurt that follow are indeed real. It doesn't matter if it's all fake, so to speak, because the people at the keyboard do really exist, are in fact, human, and have all the characteristics attached to being a real person.
Humans are human the world over. We cheat, bully and kill in real life. Why should a virtual one be any different? Will the bully or cheater at the keyboard suddenly turn into a paragon of virtue once they enter cyber space? Of course not.
Real life can be hard. we face financial problems, relationship issues and work concerns that we cannot ignore. But the very same problems in a fantasy life can be ended by the click of a mouse. Right? Or will people who instigate all these virtual problems just transfer them into real life, because this is simply how these people are?
But if a fake life like Second Life, a place that is supposed to allow you to socialize, form groups and support networks, not to mention have a little fun, ends up with divorce, real life computer hacking and sleepless nights of frustration, it really might be time to hand back your membership and say goodbye. As real as it may seem - it's not really real. And emotions based on fantasy surely leave something lacking - an empty space - in the real lives of the real people behind the screens.
For more on this, click here http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-122969
Do you belong to Second Life or something similar? Tell us about your Life there!
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