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What is Second Life to you? I have no doubt what I have to say will be very unpopular among some of you and then others will appreciate it. I pose the question; What is Second Life to you? Is SL just a game that you log into when you're bored or during free time? Is it a means by which to make a living? Is it a place to connect with friends from all over? Is it a venue to stream your art, writings, music? Who are the people in SL to you? Are they simply avatars you greet and interact with while in world and when you unplug they cease to exist until you log in again? Are they co-workers? Are they friends you met online and now have a real life connection with? Are they real life friends you introduced the game to? Are they fans of your art, writings, music? It's important that you have a solid answer to these questions in my opinion, and that those you interact with have an understanding of how you see SL because it allows them the choice of how much they choose to interact with you and how close they choose to become with you. Because if SL is simply a game to you and those in it are simply avatars, is it fair then to allow others to form an attachment to you? Likewise, if SL is a means by which you also connect with your real world work or activities; those you interact with in world should understand that you take it more seriously than some before they get involved. For instance, if you hire someone to work at your venue and you expect them to conduct themselves as a respectable employee and not show up dressed as a flying monkey; this is something they need to know from the start. How about relationships? How do you see your relationships in Second Life? I know this is a question that is often asked. I don't want to duplicate any previous articles; instead I want to point out that even though Second Life is considered a “game”, it is so much more to many. For some it's their everything. Take for example someone who is bed bound; SL becomes a means for them to have some kind of life because in SL there are no physical limitations. How about the elderly woman who lives alone; perhaps in SL she's young and beautiful again and re-living her life the way she wishes she could in her real life. Maybe there's an aspiring singer/song writer who just can't get that big break in the real world, SL allows them to be a rock star and perform for hundreds every week and even have a manager. All of these interactions form bonds and friendships and romantic interests. What happens when someone decides that SL is no longer for them? This happened to me several years ago. It interfered with my real life and through an interaction with someone in SL I was victim of an abusive relationship. Without going into details; let me just say I decided for my own mental well being, I left to tend to my body and my mind and my life. I was gone for several years. I came back when Covid19 forced many of us to remain indoors and disconnected from those around us. But I came back with caution, I told myself. My intent was to bring my real world publication into SL; which I did. I've hired a staff, created a venue and obtained land. Through all of this I have formed new friendships and connected with old ones. Some of those friendships are carried over into my real life via the connections of Facebook and Discord. Some of those friendships go even further in that we have exchanged phone numbers and even snail mail addys. If I were to leave SL again; I know that those I have created a real life connection with will at least remain in communication. Unfortunately those I only have an SL connection with will literally vanish like turning off the switch of a light. This brings me to the reason for writing this article. For those of you who are able to keep your relationships strictly in SL; why do you do it? More importantly; HOW do you do it? How are you able to disconnect your heart and mind from making a human connection? Some would say this is narcissism. I can think of but a few reasons why someone would want to keep their SL connections strictly in SL. Perhaps, someone's SL life is complete fantasy. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. It is after all a gaming platform. But, perhaps everything about their SL life is fiction. Perhaps, someone is married in their real life yet having a completely alternate relationship in SL. Perhaps, someone is a real life celebrity just wanting to hang out with regular folks. Yes, it happens. Then there is the person who doesn't have anything to hide, isn't married, isn't famous, they just simply don't care to let anyone in. They keep SL relationships in SL because when they decide to “ghost” them or disappear or block; the person they've abandoned will have no recourse and no way to connect again. Yes, they could create an alt and I know many do this, but the original relationship is lost forever. This is what I have trouble understanding. Why would anyone want to do this? It's hurtful, it's rude, it's insensitive and it's selfish. If this is your intent, then you have no right to form any kind of bond or relationship that causes the other to care about you because you aren't giving them the choice of allowing themselves to connect or not. So again, I ask you; What is Second Life to YOU? What do you get out of it? What do you put into it? Second Life is unique in that it is nearly entirely user created content. WE; avatar by avatar, create the virtual world we live in and it is as big if not much bigger than the actual world we live in as it is only limited by our imaginations. The places we can go, the things we can do; it's all so wonderful. There are very dark sides to SL as well and to each his own for wanting to explore that. But again, I ask; what is Second Life to YOU? What do you think it is to those you are connected to? Do you think they see it as you do? Have you asked them? What happens when someone unintentionally crosses that boundary you have set up and they go from an SL only acquaintance to a somewhat if not wholly real life friend. How about those who start out as Second Life romantic partners and end up real life married? Still... what about those who's real life marriages end because of a Second Life relationship? It's all so complicated isn't it? Those lines get blurred. Is it ok if they get blurred? If it's not ok, why is it not ok? As I said I was in SL for many years and left and only came back when Covid forced me to shut down my real life business. Will I stay? For how long? What happens to the relationships I've formed when I'm gone? Let's talk briefly about those who pass away. A couple of times this year I received notice of someone I knew passing away. I only knew them by their avatar yet they still impacted my life and their passing impacted my emotions, perhaps not on the same scale; but it still did. I mean no disrespect by what I am about to say, but have you ever wondered how many avatars pass away yet the real life person that was behind them still lives? Maybe they wanted a fresh start and created a new avatar. Maybe like real life their SL became so complicated and busy that they wanted out. It's much easier to “kill off” a fake life than it is a real one. I am not saying the folks I knew did that, nor am I saying everyone does that; but does it ever cross your mind that it happens? That maybe, just MAYBE the person you hear of that passed away that never had any real life contact with anyone; that just maybe they never really died and yet here you are having a whole memorial for them and they may be standing in your midst observing it all. Morbid to think of, I realize; but I bet it happens. What about those who really die? The only connection YOU had with them was through SL? So you can only grieve in world and not with their real life family and friends because to those folks you probably don't exist. Yet, you experience a real loss. Real or not, when an avatar passes away you experience loss. Their presence in your world real and imaginary is no longer. You log in, you can no longer see them online. Their IM's go unanswered. Their notices forever capped. You no longer see them dancing at events or hanging out in the clubs or favorite hot spots. Real or not their presence is definitely missed, no matter how you think of Second Life. Each avatar has a real live human behind it. Whether you want to admit that or not, whether that's something you accept or not. Each avatar has a real live human being with a heart beat creating all the interactions that you have with them in world. Our avatars have brains now and I swear they look as though they breathe. My hope is that this reminds you that although you may be looking at a cartoon version of someone or a completely fictional creation, the one controlling it is very real. Your actions, your words have a real impact on everyone that you touch in SL whether you like it or not. If you are not mature enough to accept that and the responsibility that comes with that; then you should not allow yourself to connect with anyone in a game as complicated and immersed as Second Life. Through Second Life we have the ability to touch the lives of people we may never meet in real life, folks from all walks of life and from far away. It's amazing, but it's also an awesome responsibility that I think too many take far too lightly. At the very least, choose your words and your interactions with caution and with kindness. You truly never know who it is that you are really interacting with. Perhaps you are befriending a true celebrity or maybe it's just a girl/guy from your own neighborhood. It shouldn't matter. Be kind. Don't intentionally set out to do harm and never ever demean someone's existence by thinking of them as “just an avatar”.