This time it’s personal (Strawberry Singh meme)

Another Monday, and another blog challenge/meme by Strawberry Singh… By reading her original post, I saw it was inspired by the question-bombing we sometimes are subjected to in various social settings, where people ask too many questions without thinking whether this might make us feel uncomfortable.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the questions at hand.

When and how did you discover Second Life? It was in September 2006, through an article in a magazine (not computing-related, mind you). I joined for a while, stayed for a year and a half (I think), and left. Came back – for good this time – in September 2008.

Did you know about virtual worlds before or was this your first experience with them? The concept was not entirely alien to me; I had watched the original Tron (believe it or not, I’ve yet to watch any film of the Matrix franchise), and, through my more computer-savvy friends, I had become aware of early virtual reality efforts. However, despite my active participation in various chatrooms and IRC channels, I had no previous personal experience with virtual worlds.

Has Second Life met your expectations? To be honest, I didn’t have any expectations when I first joined. However, my first months of using this platform did form some sort of purpose and expectations, which I carried over when I came back. At any rate… Based on my initial lack of expectations, and on the fact that my second go at SL has led me to try my hand at things I hadn’t thought would interest me, I think it’d be fair to say it’s surpassed them.

If you could teleport back to the first ten minutes of your avatar’s slife, what would you tell yourself? I fully concur with Inara Pey here: The winning numbers for the third consecutive jackpot on Lotto.

How long did it take you to master avatar flying and driving vehicles in-world? Despite the fact that I was never a die-hard gamer (I used to play the MMO “ancient Greece meets steampunk” turn-based strategy browser game Ikariam for a while, as well as things like Tetris and – yes – Minesweeper), getting to grips with the keyboard controls has never been an issue. Driving vehicles… Would you believe me if I told you I’ve yet to actually try it?

Do you have a mystery alt? No. I had created one, some years ago, but never bothered with it… Now I’m pretty sure I’ve even forgotten the log-in credentials (user name and password).

Yes, that's the face you'd see if you met me in RL...

Yes, that’s the face you’d see if you met me in RL…

Is your SL avatar a reflection of you, or someone you wished you could be? As far as personality goes, Mona is me. Appearance-wise… Obviously, my latex-encased look couldn’t be farther from what I look and dress like in RL. But, on the rare occasions when you might see me in more “normal” looks… Over the past two years, I’ve made a conscious effort to make her look like I do in RL, perhaps because I want my virtual self to be a snapshot of who I am right now, at 28 years of age – and have her remain so.

Is there an individual you met in SL that inspired you in your RL? How? Yes. There have been quite a few great people I’ve met in-world, and their words, guidance, attitude, have inspired and influenced me in various positive ways. Some are still around; some are in my SL; some have left SL. And some have sadly passed on. I often wish I could tell them how much I appreciate having them (or having had them) in my SL.

Do you feel it is easier to create stronger bonds/relationships with people you meet in-world as opposed to the real world? I think it depends on who you ask, and at what point in their SL. As Inara Pey points out, SL tends to compress everything, and it’s true: How many times have we seen SL partnering ceremonies, where the newly-partnered exchange vows of eternal love and loyalty, only for this love and loyalty to vanish after two weeks or so? For many people, and I was no exception in older times, forming a strong initial bond seemed to be easier in SL than it used to be in RL. Perhaps because we also lower our guards a bit, thinking to ourselves “well, it’s not like I’m giving any RL info, or any hard RL info; what have I got to lose?”. But still, it all depends on the people involved, their wishes, dreams, past experiences in RL and SL, their honesty in friendly and/or romantic relationships…

Did you ever imagine or believe people could fall in love with someone they never met before Second Life? Yes, it is. I’ve seen people fall in love in chatrooms and in IRC channels. And even before that, I’ve seen pen pals fall in love.

How has your perspective of dating changed (or not) since you started playing second life? It hasn’t. I was already in a steady relationship in RL when I joined SL (by the way, I don’t think “playing second life” is an accurate phrase), it’s still going on, so there you have it. Furthermore, I used to avoid SL relationships – and the “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of many people’s feelings for each other in SL (see the bonds-relationship question a few lines above) has played a rather significant role in this. Plus, I’ve seen some people I really care for get hurt by fickle hearts.

How has your perspective of employment changed (or not) since you started playing Second Life? It hasn’t. I wasn’t surprised to see people supplementing their income, or earning a living, through SL at all; after all, it’s bog-standard “gig economy” (more accurately called “cut-throat capitalism”) freelance work, and I’ve worked freelance for the better part of my studies, and for a good while afterwards. Plus, I happen to personally know people who use internet forums for getting customers.

Name three things in both your lives that overlap each other significantly My appearance (in the more “normal” guises, as I explained above), spending a good deal of time on my own, and… Well, that’s about it. Sorry, you’ll have to make do with two.

If you could live your life more immersively in a virtual world, would you? (Kind of like the Matrix) I’ve no idea, really. Honestly, I haven’t even watched any of these movies yet – yes, I know you’re finding it hard to believe, but it’s true. I must admit, though, that I’ve shared thoughts about it, and even fantasised about it.

How do you think behaviour changes for people if they’re in-world vs in real world? Why do you think that is? I’ll start with anonymity. It can be liberating. Without fear of being identified and facing dire repercussions, you can explore many facets of your own psyche, wishes, fantasies, creativity; you can express yourself in ways you wouldn’t dare, or wouldn’t even imagine in RL. I’ll make the post a bit NSFW here: I haven’t come out as being bisexual in RL to anyone but my fiancé; only he knows about it, and no one else. And yes, fear of gossip and various complications with my family and social circle have prevented me from coming out and from acting out on it. In SL, I’ve indulged in this side of me from the very beginning. And that’s just the beginning…

<i>Kicca Igaly and Nessuno Myoo’s</i> Danger in Evolution

Kicca Igaly and Nessuno Myoo’s Danger in Evolution

Then, you have SL’s huge (despite the persistent technical limitations) creative potential. You literally can do a lot of things that simply are impossible in RL. Don’t believe me? The Linden Endowment for the Arts hosts various astonishing art installations. Just go see them. Many of them are simply amazing. Making things more mundane, your in-world life can be tremendously different from your RL; can you, for instance, have a space station as your house in RL? I don’t think so. Also, SL’s creative potential allows you to even indulge in being something completely different from what you are in RL. Do you want to be a robot? A furry? A person of a different race or gender? Go ahead.

Unfortunately, SL’s potential also allows some people to abuse, aggravate and even stalk and intimidate others with their words and actions. Thankfully, we can block, derender and mute them… But what happens when such persons create armies of alts to stalk their targets? Or when they take their stalking outside of SL?

How has second life consumerism changed your perception of spending habits, the value of money, the need to be “bleeding edge” with fashion? I’ll admit to having been a total shoe whore in SL. And, for a fair bit of time, I was really fascinated with silks. I’ve spent significant amounts of money on outfits, but not because I wanted to follow any fashion trend. I was buying (and still do, albeit far less frequently) clothing I like; there are some styles I like, and all my SL fashion purchases are in accordance to my own stylistic preferences. Also, I read SL fashion blogs very rarely. So, I’m my own stylist and don’t depend on some SL fashion blogger to tell me what’s hot and what’s not.

Snapshot_016-1-fixedDo you think virtual worlds like SL drive and redefine human interaction or do they narrow and limit it? No. SL, InWorldz, Kitely, AviNation etc… Their combined user bases amount to such a small number of people, and their users are also influenced in their interaction modes by so many other, far more powerful (see Facebook, Twitter, etc.) factors, that they’re not even a blip on the radar. They don’t drive human interaction, and they certainly don’t redefine it. Facebook has redefined human interaction. Chatrooms used to drive and redefine it, when they were still “hot”. Mobile phones have redefined it. But virtual worlds? Nope. That’s not to say, though, that they haven’t given us more means to interact with others – and it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds in this regard.

If technology progressed tomorrow to allow you to send emotions to people the way you’d send text or voice messages, would it enrich your SL experience or infringe on it? This sounds dangerous, and more than a tad open to abuse. So thank you, but I’ll pass.

Name three skills you attribute to having learned or honed in Second Life alone. First of all, I managed to begin to understand a few things about scripting and programming. Second, I developed a basic grasp of graphics, which I might build upon later on. Third… I learned to filter through news and “news”, information, disinformation and misinformation, and form better opinions.

If your grand kids Googled your Second Life Avatar’s name, would they be intrigued, disgusted, proud or something else? I’m not sure I can answer this question. You see, for my grandchildren to look up my SL avatar’s name, there are certain conditions that will need to be satisfied:

  • Existence of grandchildren;
  • The connection between my RL and SL identities to be known to them (and, possibly,  others)

Let’s assume, simply for the sake of discussion, that I have grandchildren and that they are informed that their grandmother was Mona Eberhardt in Second Life… I really don’t know what they’d think. And, honestly… I’m not sure I should care. Perhaps I’ll be dead by then.


See also: