Since I came back to Second Life (umm… *checks*) 141 days ago I have fallen in love with it. Not its sometimes clunky graphics or (at times) embarrassing animations (we’ve all clicked the wrong menu option right?) it is the people and their creativity of course. Creativity both in terms of the places that they build and also their interesting and beautiful avatars. Also there are some cuuute tiny ones!
Those technical limitations (although it is improving lots) can easily be overcome with a little imagination. And honestly… some of the sims I have discovered recently are so beautiful and immersive there aren’t really any gaps to fill.
To be honest I am a little bit lost, which is a big part of the reason I come here. I am an introvert, and a bit geeky, and sometimes find it hard to connect with other people in the physical world. I have a tight circle of RL friends (sadly not all local any more), and my partner and my little boy, and people I know in my running club. But outside that the social circles in my town and linked to the local school feel very opaque or at best shallow. Small talk at parties is my idea of hell. I guess this is nothing unique to people like me, but I am left wanting a lot more out of life.
I crave warm emotional connections with people (I assume most people do!) and in SL I have been able to make lots of those. I have made some mistakes along the way (sorry) but even with its ups and downs SL is my happy place.
But the whole business of emotions in Second Life can be confusing.
For a start… and this is more of a newbie thing but… in a world of avatars everyone who puts in a bit of effort can be beautiful in their own unique way. And it is hard not to be drawn in by that beauty. To be fair to ourselves this is just our stupid evolved brains reacting instinctively to a pretty face or a ‘perfect’ figure. “Wow, they are beautiful, I’m really attracted to them”. And this initial reaction combined with the fact that I also made myself as pretty as possible means the chances are pretty good that they will feel the same way. It’s not hard to find some action if you want it. But…
Walking around as a kind of supermodel-figure version of myself has been a very interesting experience. Namely how it feels to get a lot more attention from men. Certainly, like in RL, it is not all welcome but I have met some lovely people (across the spectrum of genders) who were initially drawn to my avatar I suppose. It is a real enabler in many ways, though I do have to deal with a lot of impolite (and worse) pests. You learn to be tough.
I have started to be a lot more selective. My friend Alice laughed at me the other day when I made that claim. But I am far more interested in relationships (of all sorts) than in the sex itself (though virtual sex can be wonderful between two partners who let each other in emotionally). I would much rather do that once a fortnight with someone I love than every day with all the contacts who ask. Besides, it gets boring, and there are lots of other things I want to do with my time.
The other thing I want to say about avatars is that the more personalised ones do give you a glimpse of the person behind them. You can see that they are creative and have put some effort in. I suppose a simpler way of putting it is that I’m turned off by default ‘Ken Doll’ type avatars that all look alike.
And of course you can have the most beautiful avatar and still be an arsehole. A bit of charm goes a long way.
So on to the other confusing thing, which is roleplay. There is a big mix of how people define and handle this, how they present themselves and how consistent they are. From my experience the main categories are:
- People who are open about who they are in RL, and the fact that they are RPing as a different character in SL
- People who play themselves and talk about RL and SL interchangeably
- People who play as themselves consistently and keep RL info to a bare minimum or need-to-know
- People who effectively are their SL character because they never disclose anything about their RL
I play SL as a version of myself or at least *laughs* how I might be if was about 10 years younger, with a supermodel figure and living in a sexually liberated world with very few responsibilities and where actions have far fewer consequences. Oh and you can fly and stuff too.
But I am always* that same me in SL regardless of the setting we are in.
Of course people are free to play in SL as they like but for me it can break the spell when people are too open about real life. I don’t want to know too much detail about who you are in RL. I don’t want to know that earlier we were roleplaying but now we are not. I find the switch jarring and I can no longer be immersed in your SL self.
But where this starts to get confusing is when I get feelings for someone. Is it me having feelings for you or is it ‘pretend me’ having feelings for ‘pretend you’?
Am I just roleplaying as someone who is in love with your character? Or are those my real feelings? Why am I lying awake thinking about you at night? Is it because I am still in character? Or is it because through the medium of our avatars we have had a beautiful meeting of our true hearts and minds?
At its best I prefer to believe it is the latter. We are real people inside, after all.
The thing is… sometimes being SL-me comes more naturally than being RL me. I sometimes feel that I am roleplaying in real life, and when I log into SL I can relax and be ‘myself’ again. I guess this is partly due to some RL problems I have right now, but still, in my mind there is not a clear line between real me and Olivia in SL.
For now, my answer is to remember that it is just a fantasy world. But… to enjoy that world I want to be immersed in it as fully as possible. So I accept that feelings will spill over into everyday life. A bit like if I am reading a good book I will keep thinking about it after I put it down.
My other rule is nothing should get too serious. Fun has to be the priority.
My only hopes and expectations are for outcomes in Second Life itself (I am taken in RL, after all) so hey what could possibly go wrong? Right?
/me belly-laughs so much she ends up choking on her Werther’s Original**
*This is mostly true apart from the interesting area of RP within the RP… I have recently been introduced to Bloodlines and enjoy playing the role of a human ‘blood doll’ kind of submissive to my vampire friends who I let drink from me freely 😛
** That was a joke I’m not that old. They are nice though.