September 30, 2007

The more I think about Second Life, the more complexities I discover in the relationships between me and the platform and between me and other users. Today, I began thinking about community as it relates to Second Life, and I realized that I am actually involved in three distinct (though frequently overlapping) communities because of my involvement in the metaverse. The first, and most obvious, is the community of Second Life users. Obviously, this is a huge and diverse group (as of this writing, we are about 225,000 registered users short of the ten million mark), and the vast majority of these users I will never encounter in world. The second is the community of Second Life photographers who post to Flickr. The third, and maybe the most relevant to those of you who are reading this right now, is the community of Second Life bloggers. What struck me as surprising today was that, when I really thought about it, the first of these three communities is the one in which I’m *least* involved, at least socially.

I have spent countless hours in world and continue to do so. Though I do manage to eke out a real life, Second Life has become a somewhat integral part of my existence. I love to log in, spend time with Tobie, chat with friends, shop, etc. On particularly harsh RL days, it’s something that I long for. Given that, it might seem odd that this is the community with which I am least involved, but when I think about it, there is no question in my mind this is the case. Since losing broadband in May, I have spent time in world with a very few people. In fact, the only people I have seen more than a handful of times in that period are Tobie and Dirk. I have attempted to see some of my other friends, but that has usually ended in frustration, as they usually would be involved in some activity and my participation would be inhibited by my connection. Sometimes, I will try to carry on IM conversations with others, but it’s usually a hassle to talk to me these days, as my frequent lag and packet loss issues cause messages to be dropped or arrive out of order, which confuses things quite a bit. Except to a few people, then, I am socially a non-entity in the metaverse.

Given that the other two communities essentially function to supplement the first, the realization that my social interaction occurs primarily through them was interesting (to me, at least). There are many people whose blogs and Flickr streams I check daily whom I have never even met in world. I know far more about these people’s likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, etc., than I do about many of those on my SL friends list. While I might be hesitant to approach these people on the grid and say anything to them, I have no problem reading their thoughts and providing feedback—feedback they may not even want or appreciate. Strangely, I seem to feel the absence of the Flickr and blog people more as well. I can have someone on my friends list who hasn’t logged on in months and not really think about it, but when someone who blogs frequently or posts to Flickr is gone for an extended period, I find myself wondering about him/her.

**If you’ve been reading thus far curious about what the point to this post is . . . I’m not sure that I have one. Occasionally, I find truths amongst the jumbled mess in my head, and I feel the need to record them. Whether they are actually applicable to any problem or provide any real insight seem secondary to just getting the thought down while it remains.**

To be honest, though I have implicated my connection in this post, I don’t think the answer lies there. Before the end of May, when I had broadband, I think the case was still the same. Many of my SL friendships that persist were not formed in world but through Flickr or blogs. I didn’t initally meet Tobie in world. It was through comments on each other’s Flickr streams and blogs that our relationship was formed. If it had not been for Flickr, we likely would have never met.

Perhaps for me, the blogging and Flickr communities are the testing grounds for SL friendships. Maybe the case is I like the extra level of distance that these communities provide even over SL. Then again, possibly there’s another reason beyond what I can perceive at this time.

Anyway, I’m done rambling. Feel free to comment on this mishmash of a post, if just to say “WTF?” 🙂


  1. Very interesting stuff, Chloe. In fact, it clarifies something I have been thinking about for a while. I haven’t been in SL very much lately – many times my cursor has hovered over the icon on my desktop only to be diverted elsewhere (many reasons for that, some of which I should probably blog about!). And yet, I still check Flickr several times a day to see what is going on in friends lives. I have the blogs I read sent through to Google Reader and I check this pretty much every time I pass my computer. I also visit the blogs themselves to see if any comments have been left. I sometimes wonder if I could actually manage without SL itself and just socialise through these sites. I rarely meet people face-to-face on the grid, but instead make connections through Flickr and blogs, and, in one case, I use IM outside of the game to talk to someone whose avatar I have never even met! I think it says a lot about the kind of people who use Flickr and who have blogs. They make up a community of people who want to share ideas, thoughts and feelings, and maybe reach out to a wider audience than they could ever hope to meet on the grid. Just like RL, SL is a big place with, as you say, far more residents than you could ever hope to meet. Blogs and Flickr allow us to make connections we wouldn’t otherwise, rather like pen-palling does in the real world.

    I seem to be rambling now, so i shall stop. Many jumbled thoughts in my head about this topic. Maybe I’ll come back when I have it a bit clearer LOL

  2. I’ve been in SL even less than Phoenix lately, caught up in two long-running and very demanding RL work projects, to the extent that I have not even checked Flickr more than once or twice a week, but the blogs I still check several times a day. Through them I still feel my connection with people that I consider to be friends.

    I had a think about this before I posted a reply and I believe that Phoenix has “hit the nail on the head” with the comparison to pen-palling. Blogs give us much greater opportunity to really communicate than either SL or Flickr. We tend to say far more, and do so without distraction or interruption (at least from our readers’ perspective) and many of us tend to being more open in our blogs than we would be on something like Flickr. Perhaps its the sense that it is somehow more private and more intimate.

    As work eases up it will be my blog that recovers first I expect, followed by my SL projects and then Flickr. They are all important to me, but I would most miss blogging and reading those of my friends. There are a small handful of blogs (this one very much included) that I genuinely get a little happy buzz when I see someone has posted something, cos I know I will enjoy reading it and probably have something to say in reply.

  3. I’ve noticed the same thing with myself. I’m fairly shy, and I’m much more likely to leave a comment on someone’s photo or blog post than I am to IM them or say hello in world. Flickr and blogs are one way for me to test the waters a little with people, and that enriches my SL in such a way that it’s the reason I sign in at all some days.

  4. yeah, that sounds about right. I could have never prompted Arahan in-world, but since I began to post on his pics, we have deffinally clicked as friends. I also think that we learn about other people through their blogs and pictures, because they revel so much about themselves without the stress about opening up to strangers. It also is able to show some common ground, or not without the hassle of taking the time to introducing ourselves and finding out that we are don’t have anything in common.

  5. Very thoughtful post – and oddly enough, as a few people noted here – I’ve been having similar thoughts running around in my head.

    My SL-time seems to be much more limited (usually due to work and social obligations) than the time I spend on Flickr. I don’t spend as much time as I’d like, or as I used to, browsing blogs; though I have been trying to do this more because I enjoy it so. Most residents – especially those creative and adventurous souls who extend their SLife onto such things as blogging and photo-sharing – I enjoy reading about and getting to know immensely. While they may make up a small portion of the entire SL population, I tend to think they are some of the grid’s most interesting and amazing residents.

    Perhaps that is why we are all so drawn to one another outside of the grid?

  6. Phoenix: I agree—you should blog about why you’re not as motivated to go into SL. It’s been too long since your last post 😉 Seeing you write that you wonder if you could “manage without SL itself” gets at what was going on in my mind when I wrote this post. I know that I can’t do without SL, but that I do the least amount of socializing in world seems very strange to me. I mean, both my Flickr stream and this blog can’t exist without my participation in the metaverse, yet they seem to have supplanted SL, at least when it comes to social interaction.

    Wolf: I’m glad you include me in that handful of blogs 🙂 I think I understand what you mean by stating that blogs give us a “greater opportunity to really communicate.” I know that I’m a person who likes to compose her thoughts carefully (well, I at least try to), so blogging permits me to write and rethink what I want to say. Maybe because I’m more careful to express my thoughts on my blog, I’m more effective in transmitting ideas and getting good responses, which makes the whole process more fulfilling. Maybe 🙂

    Brandy: I’m much the same way. There are a very few people with whom I’ve initiated frienship in world, and when I have, it’s because I really feel that I’ve already developed a really good rapport with that person. I guess the comments sections of blogs and Flickr images is one way to work on that rapport.

    Adia: I think Arahan and I clicked after we rode on a giant pink sperm together 😉 Anyway, maybe opening up is a factor as well. I mean, if you’re talking in SL and open up to someone and don’t get the response you were expecting (or any response at all), you find yourself in a very awkward situation. If you post something, you’re not looking so much for a specific response from a specific person.

    Izzy: I hadn’t really thought of the creative angle, but maybe that’s part of it. I think in most situations, we’re much more likely to encounter creative people off the grid than we are on, and we’re going to be interested in what they’re doing. Since we may never see these people in world, it would make sense to socialize with them on blogs, Flickr, etc., where messages can be left at any time.

  7. Flickr can definitely give you a nice window into some people’s second lives, at least the ones who post more than just studio portraits and the like. But even then, connecting with someone else on a creative level is good too. I’ve developed relationships with people both ways through Flickr.

  8. I love reading your blog posts.

    I really enjoy having flicker & blogs in connection to SL. Since I cannot be with my SL friends all the time when I view there images I can see there experiences.

    I have found through the flicker group… a circle of people who have an artistic side needing to express… that is something that I enjoy as well, it is a nice group of people to be involved with… then to actually meet them in SL, that is great.

    With the blog circle… I love to read people’s ramblings, usually something that has been stuck in there mind for a while and they finally write it out.

    I always look forward to your next post.

  9. Tobie: Yeah, the window into a certain someone’s SLife I got from Flickr had a really big impact on me 🙂

    Ginseng: Thank you! It really is exciting to meet fellow Flickrites and bloggers in world, especially when it’s totally unexpected. I always do a double-take when I see one of them in SL and have to restrain myself from bugging them 🙂

  10. *mews sweetly*

  11. I think that it is the case for all of us bloggers, to get to know each other through blogs and flickr. It is as a diary, a blog, and you write what you experienced with your own feeling. It just depends how detailed you are willing to write. But it remains a fact that, by reading the comments, the articles, we get to know each other far more, than the avatars we have met in SL, and only in SL. Hours are flying by, while chatting in SL, and you can never say that much through the chatbar as we do through our blog.
    I am glad reading the blogs that I used too, and would hate it if someone just stopped, which already happened. It is a kind of connection, and it is hard to break it, I think…;)

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