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Is your Secondlife identity any less “real” than your real world identity?

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Is your Secondlife identity any less “real” than your real world identity? If many of us are logging hundreds of hours with our Secondlife avatars (virtual identity), what impact does it have on our “real” identity? In other words does the time spent in Secondlife carry over/impact when you leave that virtual setting?

I’m interested in hearing how you see your identities (real, Virtual and the intersection between these two) are being impacted by Secondlife.

Do you find your virtual identity to be as “real” in some ways as your non virtual identity? How does one inform the other?

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What do you mean exactly by identity?

I am who I am. It doesn't matter if you use a chat to talk to me, call me on the phone or stand next to me at the bus stop. My opinions and tastes are the same. I laugh on the same jokes, I talk about the same things and I still like the same kind of music and have my favorite colours...and so on.

When it comes to apperance my avatars look very often different than me. They don't need to care about weather or physiks, they simply wear what I like to see on them.

I haven't created a second identity, but I also don't push my real life into peoples faces. I'm just here for fun.

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I was interested in whether you felt your avatar or (virtual self) was any different to your real self sat at your computer screen. By the sounds of your post you don't seem to think that there is much difference apart from apperence from your "real" self and your "virtual" self.

Do you ever find you do things or say things with your Avi that you wouldn't normally do or say in RL?

Or do things that you have never done in RL but have tried them in SL then beacuse of this done them in RL?

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An undergraduate "dissertation?"  Never heard of such a thing.   Thesis, yes.

Find a professor with an interest in the topic who can direct you to the relevant research or at least tell you how to go about doing a literature review.  Asking questions on message boards is fun, but it isn't research in any meaningful sense of the word.

Start with some background reading on the topic.  There is a lot of research that has already been completed on this topic.  Try searching "virtual identity" or "virtual self" to get get started. 

Check Swann, W.B., Jr. & Bosson, J. (2010). Self and Identity. Chapter prepared for S.T. Fiske, D.T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed; 589-628), New York: McGraw-Hill. for a nice overview on the current state of identity theory.

You might also want to check your university library for an introduction to Social Psychology which will give you a more introductory and digestable overview of identity theory. 

My original virtual world recommendation is a bit too dense for undergrads.  I'll have to look for something more appropriate.

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Yes it is research for my undergraduate dissertation. My question is: To what extent does the digital world affect the virtual self.


Before I generally used SL for entertainment and it wasn't till i spoke to a few people where they told me of how their SL selves were affecting their RL's that i became interested in this and wanted to explore it for my dissertation.

I'm just interested if anyone else has had these experiences or whether they don't see a difference in their SL selves and their RL selves.


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then you should be upfront about that at first..

there are some that will more than likely answer you..

but it's sneaky to go about it this way...

some of us have been researched for years and have our reasons for stepping aside..

you'll do nothing but make people not trust others in the future by sneaking around like this getting information..

sorry but if you want people to be honest with you..you need to start off that way with them.


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I'm so sorry if you feel i wasn't honest with you at first, i thought by the nature of the question that you will assume that it was research.

I completely undersatnd if you would not want to asnwer these questions and i would never use any direct information from these forums without first consulting with the person who posted the comment. Im generally interested as well as doing research.

I'm sorry if you have felt like you have been researched for years. Its a complicated subject and i realise that i need to be more transparent with my questions.

Again I apologise if i have offended you Ceka.

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You may want to be cautious about using the word "identity" unless the context is obvious. In some fields, "identity" may be about a risk to one's emotions, whereas in other disciplines, it's more related to the risk one will be tracked by a hostile government.

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There has been a GREAT deal of research and discussion on this topic already.  Look around the web.

I recommend (shamelessly) my own blog (see link in my signature).

There are many other blogs by SL residents that explore the connections between avatars and their real life "operators".

If you want a more formal academic treatment, see "Coming of Age in Second Life" by anthropologist Tom Boellstorff.  I don't agree with many of his ideas, but you might.

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Well, I've decided to be nice here for a minute.

/me chuckles

I have a couple of times wondered what a psychologist or psychiatrist would think if I were to tell them about my Second Life.  And what they would think if they were to observe me interacting with others In World.

We do I believe all know how difficult it can be to explain Second Life to our friends and family.  And how often we say, "You've got to experience it for yourself to really understand it."

Much of my SL identity is just an extension of my RL identity.  I don't really try to separate the two sans appearance.  Behind each Avatar I know is a real person with thoughts, desires, emotions, dreams, aspirations, experiences, etc, etc.  And I know that is who I am really interacting with.

I have saved in my files two quotes from Torley that I think are apropos to this discussion.


"The terms "virtual" and "real" have largely outlived their usefulness. They imply a binary "EITHER/OR" opposite when the two are in fact much more of a gradiated spectrum. Someday, I suspect we'll have celebrated the singularity and exist in a world of post-pixel consciousness that is as unbelievable to our reach now, as we are to cavemen."


"In my head, I've long heard varied voices that inform my life choices. They span a rich spectrum of genders, races, etc. It was only natural that I express them as avatars — earlier, I used the term "Torley Council", or there's that joke from some Resis, that when they see me, they go "It's a Torley!" Hahahaha.

I have a very strong female voice that emerges here. She encourages me to be more sensible and explanatory (I used to be terse and not all that social), and it feels 1000% natural to me. Not having that would feel strongly repressive, and so with SL as an outlet — or whatever you want to call it — I've been able to unify my personality and feel a lot healthier in both lives as a result.

It is a difficult thing that, while life in general appeals to a diversity of people, many people's interests are in conflict. This is also true in Second Life, and I continue to be a proponent of responsible disclosure in relationships that matter to you. On top of that, there's insecurity that people keep hidden, not to mention jealousy and other "demons" that drag someone down from acknowledging and living the life THEY really want... in the process they become control freaks trying to prevent OTHERS from feeling fulfilled, as Darrius initially mentioned.

The psychology of it intrigues me deeply. I just hope more people can come inworld and use Second Life as a tool of confronting hangups and dealing with their baggage, so they have healthier relationships with others. Not growing means not really living."



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Irene Muni wrote:

Theatrequestions wrote:

Is your Secondlife identity ... ?

Which one SL identity?

most of these
assume that
all SL residents
have a
single SL identity

umm probably because they've never actually logged in and done anything?

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I have had this question posed before and since I have been around second life since 2005, I think I can answer this honestly and clearly. 

Second life is whatever experience the user can imagine or plan to receive.  Everyone goes into second life with a preconceived design plan and it is loosely based on the users real life needs, wants, mental facilities and expendable time.  The user seeks out the things that are already of interest to them, people with like minds to share their time with, and personalities that complement their own.  I do believe that none of us users engage in second life’s online setting by stepping completely out of our comfort zone of mental familiarity or moral standards.

With that being said, I also believe that separating second life from the real world is rather illogical way of looking at a personal hobby, mode of work or social pursuit.  When a person collects stamps as a hobby would any of us ask if their stamp collecting gets in the way of their real life?  When your friend takes on a job that gives them great satisfaction and career success do you ask them if it interferes with their real life?   When a friend chats with a total stranger they met while standing in a coffee line, do you consider their time “not real” and wasted?  Second life is merely an extension of our current interests in our lives.  For example I have always had an artistic nature and am a very social person.  It was natural after joining second life that I began with building, create sim’s, and take on jobs for real businesses and colleges that used second life as a tool.  I even went a step further and went back to college to pursue a degree in graphics and multimedia.  Did second life change my first life?  No, but like most successful hobbies I found a way to achieve a want, and give someone else what they needed.  Does it feel any less real because my creativity was channeled virtually?   NO.    It would be like calling web designers, programmers and anyone doing business via the web/computer  “playing at making a living”.  Honestly, I would have found a creative outlet with or without second life, and the current impact is exactly what it started out to be.  A tool for socializing, creating, making an impact on others and gaining work experience, but it does not affect my real life identity because my identity is carried over into second life just like everyone else’s. My family even uses second life, as a creative, social and work tool.

I do believe people get what they want out of all life experiences, if you chose to do bad, destroy your marriage, harass other people then I am sure that’s exactly what you will find yourself doing in second life or in your other pursuits.  Calling second life an “unreal” experience and “real” life what we are all supposed to achieve is rather naive since the two seem to always go hand and hand.  You cannot have one without the other.

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My avatar is a reflection of me, of who I could strive to be in a world without the constraints that I live under.

She's been a force through which I've explored both aspects of sexuality and spirituality. Body freedom, as well as comfort zones. She lets me let my inner human out, after all, my RL pic:



I not who you might think.

In SL, I have explored being a nudist, a neko, a furry, a sex freak, a totally PG lifestyle, and in time; come to discover that the reason a certain theme has been present in my life over 4 decades is not because I needed to find Rastafarianism, but that I was always there - and just needed to see it. SL lets me see just what my resistance to the 'western version' of Christian churches was. So its been all these journeys through the self. VIa a little cartoon character of a 'catgirl'.

In short, my avatar let me:

Break free.




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