Relationships…

Every other profile that one clicks on in Second Life professes undying love for a partner or proudly displays snapshots of friends and virtual families. One often hears of severe depressions that have resulted from lost or unrequited love. On the other hand virtual loneliness can be as profound as its real counterpart, as I had to find out during my early days before I became part of what we now, amongst ourselves, refer to as our avatar family.

A virtual snub can be every bit as painful, a virtual joke every bit as funny and virtual admiration every bit as flattering as any generated by any kind of interaction anywhere. Even during the course of superficial acquaintanceships the power/effects of human interaction can be felt quite intensely. But it is at the point where you start to forge real friendships that Second Life starts showing its full impact in terms of relationships. I have yet to understand exactly what the dynamics involved here are but this is what I sense:

Dirndl

top hat

Hackso… Hackso… I have seldom laughed as hard as I have in the metaverse…

I have, of course, wondered whether I would have connected with Hack, my closest friend in the metaverse, in quite the same way if we had somehow been thrown together in, say, a Real Life work environment. The answer, I think, is (sadly) no, not very likely… We simply would not have had that kind of time for each other in the hectic schedules and endless lists of priorities that Real Life seems to be made up of. We would, in fact, probably have passed each other by completely: One simply allows far more time for the development of a relationship, for the process of getting to know the other in the metaverse. We simply no longer seem to have enough time to get to know one another, to spend time engaged in pure conversation in Real Life. However, time is the one thing that Second Life allows us to deploy in huge chunks. The very fact that we are in there and ready to devote ourselves to the discovery of a new way of being calls for spending time and inevitably huge portions of this are alocated to the propagation of friendships, It is this readiness to spend time just getting to know someone, with no particular rush to attain certain ends, to define goals, to set hidden or overt agendas that I believe makes the huge difference in the forging of Second Life relationships to those in Real Life.

Another important feature that aids bonding in Second Life is that the metaverse provides a common ground of understanding: If anyone in your contacts list is there about as often as you are, you can be pretty certain that just like you they have a fundamental gripe with Real Life, that the search for a certain missing something therein compels them to be in Second Life. For me that missing thing in Real Life is “das maerchen” (the fairy tale), my long lost and yearned for childhood complete with its state of spontaneity. I am not sure what it would be for others but I am fairly certain that anyone who takes some 30/40/50 hours per week out of their Real Lives to be immersed in a “Second Life” is doing so out of motives that are other than cold, naked self-interest. I think the demographics of Second Life, which seem to indicate a far more mature user group than what one would expect, are not coincidental either: It seems to me that embedded somewhere in the psychic make-up of any hard core Resident is some kind of disillusionment with what Real Life has had to offer so far. Cyber-punk afficionado Mumixer Yoshikawa who shows up kitted out in elaborate backpack and headset; Corwin Carrillon whom I do not often get to hang out with but who I know is always out there; one of my oldest acquaintances in Second Life, Bree Birke, who has transformed a mountain ridge into a wonder forest for her many musician friends to hang out in… I am pretty sure that these people are in there for pretty much the same reasons that I and my avatar family (Hack, Mossy, wolfie) are there also…

However, this still does not mean that one should go about in a starry eyed state of acceptance towards everyone one encounters in the metaverse – far from it: The vultures have already moved in big time, networking activity is rife on every street corner, deals are struck, professional alliances forged – Real Life is very much with us in Second Life… But, I still stand by my original assertion: Do Real Life agendas motivate the truly hard-core Second Life resident? I would at least like to think that they do not, or at least not yet…

And finally, we seem to base our affections on the inner world of the object of our affections, rather than on their outward attractiveness: Their dreams, their fantasies, their playfulness and ultimately the creativity with which they materialize all of these in their virtual lives. Second Life, with all its accoutrements, its buildings, its vehicles, its “play” brings about a renaissance of childhood: A childlike way of being, an emergence of childhood emotions and fantasies; as well as a staggeringly naked expression/display of primal childhood traits which, as adults, we take very good care to conceal. This childlike presence not only enables some very deep lying characteristics of the other to emerge but also results in a deep recognition and acceptance of who that other is. And I think it is this that guides our affections and makes Second Life bonds, of whatever nature, so very powerful.

pink caddy

Hack, Mossy and Alpha about to embark upon a joy ride in a pink Cadillac

As the medium within which all these emotions and attachments materialize, the difference between Second Life and standard chat applications has to be perceived. Again, to come back to the question of whether Hack and I would have hit it off the way that we did in Second Life but this time in a regular chatroom? No, we probably wouldn’t have: For the largest part communication in the metaverse tends to center exclusively around occurences within the metaverse and is very seldom RL related. The renaisance of the child within the adult: Excursions undertaken together, places explored, meetings attended… The joint memories that all these have generated… The comparison/showing off of creations, toys and the exchange of shopping and building tips… And, of course, the undescribable hilarity that is generated by the absurd events that can only occur in the fairy tale world of the metaverse; where wolves, lions, felinoid humans and dwarves embark upon joint adventures in the sky and underwater, where one can either fly or build/aquire the weirdest of contraptions and vehicles to accomplish the strangest of journeys…

Advertisements

About this entry