Today was my Second Life 7th rezz day. There was a time long ago, in what now feels like a different life, that I would eagerly count down the date knowing that I would celebrate surrounded by friends with a party. This year, like the two before it, I’ve spent the time alone, reflecting on my experiences within Second Life.
Of course I would like to think that the majority of these memories are happy ones, otherwise it would become blatantly obviously that I’ve wasted seven years of my life inside a computer and who is ever going to admit to that!
There is enormous value in friendship given when there is no ulterior motive. Over the years I have been privileged to make special friendships which indeed span the entire seven years. Amalaki, my original reason for joining Second Life and first avatar love is still one of my closest and dearest friends. Sharing real life information, compassion and genuine care has ensured people like Frankx; Dremmy; Alexa; Ratbag; Trav; Paris; Sita; Dani and Juggy all have a special place in my heart.
These are the people behind my reason to log in. They are who I miss when I struggle to find my place in the world. Without them to share conversations and fun times with my life in-world would be rather pointless. After all, there is only so much shopping and decorating one can do.
With hideously huge real life size 10 feet, those ultra pretty super dainty strap heels are a fantasy only my pixel person can fulfill. In a world where almost everything fits, a bursting inventory is proof of seven years of shopping fun!
There is an abundance of talent waiting to be enjoyed. The creative endeavors of others, be it art displays or live performances. Many nights over the past seven years have been spent wandering the Lea sim’s and awakening my mind to different perspectives. With so much offered at the Second Life birthday events, not a single one has been missed. My biggest regret, for it is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, is the curse of my time zone ensuring I never managed to catch a performance of Romeo and Juilet by The Basilique Performing Arts Company.
Yet for all the happy memories; the laughter and silly antics; the music and dancing; there is a dark side to seven years of life in a virtual world. Those lost friendships, lies and betrayals.
Although we move on, we never truly forget those moments, they leave their mark. Etched into the recesses of our memory the hurt, anger and pain remain. Sometimes changing our perception of the world we visit forever.
We have all heard the horror stories which are weaved into the fabric of online life. I certainly don’t plan to throw stones for only the innocent should do that. I know at times I have played the game as hard as others.
The person who feigns a terminal illness only to be discovered some time later on a new avatar. I’ll never forget finding a friend’s deceased partner happily dancing beside me as a buxom brunette new avatar. What was her undoing? Believe it or not, the same real life photo in profile. Maybe she believed and trusted that he would never share her photo with others?
Oh, there it is, that trust word.
Men masquerading as women and women masquerading as men. Personally, I think each to their own. Be what you want to be. Second Life is a wonderful vehicle for experimentation and fantasy. Yet there is a moral code somewhere that says if you are about to get intimately involved in someone’s life they deserve to know the truth. At some point guilt will get the better of you and the only guaranteed answer to the situation is death of the friendship for betrayal rarely is easily forgotten.
After grappling with questions of sexuality, eventually I decided to tick my experience off as my one and only lesbian experience on the “Second Life Must Do” list. A rather happy newbie couple the lucky recipients of a no longer required expensive engagement ring. Your lover getting on voice to say sorry and not being the sex you expected has little value, aside from shock.
As for cheating, a classification of which is still a heavily debated topic for online romance. Honestly, I’m beginning to run out of fingers to count the amount of men I’ve dated who were then found to have second (and even third) lives on alts. This might be more my choice of men, something I’ll choose to ignore given its my birthday. The dreaded hidden alt does however seem to be a commonly discussed reason for relationship breakup. Eventually we realize that the partnership box is viewed differently around the grid and if people want to screw around they will.
With the passing off of false careers; ages missing years; marital status or lack thereof; and fake photos; is it any wonder over time we become suspicious and jaded?
Goggle image search certainly helps bust those who blatantly upload off the internet. Although my basis has always been if your lady is a bikini clad swimsuit model or toned boxer clad beau, perfect for the pages of a magazine; chances are they are far from that image. Most residents in Second Life are your average Joe’s and Tina’s.
Should we question our need to verify information in a world of fantasy and imagination? Should we even be expecting honesty online? Especially when it is hard for any real accountability. In a world based on the visual treats of avatar and environment should we even need to seek additional real life information? These are but a few of the many questions that feed into one another.
The depth of feeling we have about being lied to will vary from person to person as much as the ways we handle the fall out from that deceit. There is no doubt that by passing off something falsely you are silently chipping away at a bond of trust which is a precious commodity in any life. Once you open that door, everything could be placed under suspicion. Whether you are pushed into the realm of delete and forget or slapped on the hand then offered forgiveness, only you personally can know if that risk is worth it.
So as I raise my glass, instead of wishing myself a Happy Birthday; I congratulate myself for surviving seven years.
Eyeing off the chocolate cake, I am glad of two things;
1. There is no computer in my grandmother’s nursing home; and
2. Those who were a fleeting moment in my life, left room for the amazing people who remained.
Cheers All, PB x