Is there anybody . . . out there?

November 12, 2007

Alone in the dark

Humans are social animals. We thrive on our relationships with other people, whether they be the flesh and bone person sitting next to us chatting about who was voted off Dancing with the Stars or the virtual person using the “yay” gesture to make us laugh (I’m a big sucker for that one). We care so much about our standing with others that we will purposefully do things that harm ourselves if we see a social benefit arising from it (how many times have you worn uncomfortable shoes because they *looked* good?). That said, we have different levels of susceptibility to social pressures, forcing some to be uber-cognizant of changing dynamics in social relationships (whether or not they’re actually there) while others remain surprisingly ignorant of the pressures surrounding them.

I think at its core, Second Life is a social networking tool. I’m not willing to call it glorified chat (as a certain person in my past was heard to say all too often), but I believe that the majority of SL users log in to connect with other people, with a minority using it primarily to make money or create art. The problem is, we all have different levels of social interaction we seek from SL. I have gone from spending a godawful amount of hours on SL to using it just a handful of hours a week (of course, the all-too-oft mentioned dial-up connection plays a role in this). Some log in only occasionally, perhaps to check in on that friend made while out exploring a month or so ago. I believe that some people rely on SL as a very important—perhaps primary—means of social interaction, and I think when that is the case, there is almost always going to be heartache :/

Perhaps the largest problem is one of accessibility. Many of your SL friends you are only going to be able to contact when that person is actually logged into SL. If you’ve managed to develop a friendship/relationship beyond that, you may have the person’s e-mail addy, Yahoo or MSN ID, or MySpace/Facebook page. Still, all of these options require the person to be online and logged into his or her account. Of course, some of you probably know SL friends in RL or have the RL person’s phone number, etc., but at that point, I don’t think it’s really an SL relationship anymore.

A huge pitfall for many of us is to lose sight of what all this is—a second life. I know that has been a problem for me in the past. I’ve spent hours wandering, bored out of my mind, yet unwilling to log out of SL. I felt the need to talk to someone, but no one I knew was around. All that I accomplished was wasting a *lot* of time that could have been spent doing other, more productive things. I mean, I could have even spent the time building, designing, etc., in SL instead of walking around with no real goal other than to have a friend pop up on my list.

I think the point of me posting all of this is that I’ve seen so many of us get frustrated with SL. We feel that our friends are ignoring us, no longer care about us, have forsaken SL, etc. The thing is, if we trust them enough to call them friends, we should also give them the benefit of the doubt. Our commitments to SL vary and so will our expectations. If you see a friend online who hasn’t talked to you in ages, don’t immediately think that person no longer wants to be your friend. There can be any number of reasons why you haven’t received an IM from him or her, one of them quite possibly being that he or she is sitting there wondering why you aren’t sending IMs . . .

If you find that you aren’t getting the support/interaction/etc. you desire from your friends, either take the lead and try to develop the relationship further or find additional friends. There is no limit to the amount of friends we can have on our list. At least, I don’t think there is. If there were, I’m sure Codie would have hit that ceiling long ago (just kidding—I love you, Codie!). Remember, this is a second life. It’s something that should enhance your real life, not be another source of anguish. It just bothers me to see so many people letting what happens or doesn’t happen on the grid have such a negative impact on them. Sure, we all let it happen sometimes. Just be careful that it doesn’t become a detriment to your RL well-being.

Another bit of unsolicited advice from your friend Chloe 🙂



  1. Sound advice I think. I try hard not to go into SL for the sole purpose of talking to friends anymore, but then I am a rather reclusive sort of chap anyway. I do love talking to friends and meeting new people but my main reason for having a second life at all is the enormous fun I have creating and scripting, even if I don’t sell or use what I make. I wonder if that is more of a male trend though, hmmmmmm …..

  2. My sole purpose in SL is exploring…finding creative beautiful places.. the friends, well, it’s fun, but not the main reason anymore for me to hang around in SL. I am beginning to change into a solitary person in SL…hey!! thats it, I need to find a new monastery in SL as a retreat 🙂

  3. *smiles as she recognizes which parts of this come from Chloe’s own personal experience*

    Very sound advice, hon. Unfortunately, I too sometimes will hang around Midian City just in case I’m needed for something (since I’m a Trainer and a Medic, it’s not unusual for me to be called upon on a regular basis). And sometimes that “hanging around” will turn into 2 hours of me walking laps around the two sims in search of *something*. Really though, I’d be better off logging out and doing something like working on music or something else productive. I’ve been trying to get myself into that mindset lately…

  4. sl is pretty much the only place where i socialize since i’m pretty much anti-social person. like you said sometimes i do feel ignored or that my friends dont care about me. i will try my best to talk to them but sometimes i realize theres no use, theres just not anything left there and so its time to let them go.

    because of this i also noticed i’m also a lot quicker to accept friendships and sometimes that means keeping people i dont have anything in common with longer then i really should. i often find myself bored or miserable with someone just because i dont have the courage to tell i dont want to be friends with them anymore.

  5. I wonder if some people get into designing, scripting, etc., because they feel that the social aspect of SL isn’t enough to keep them interested. Maybe it’s an evolutionary step in the SL experience of some. I don’t know.

    I guess when it comes to friends lists, personality types play a large role in how we manage them. The only people I’ve ever removed from my list were those who offered friendship immediately or who were looking for SLex. I try to get something out of every relationship I make. No, that doesn’t mean I attempt to coerce items, money, etc., from others. I just look for the positive in the friendships I have, and most of the time, I can find it.

  6. If you are ever wandering about lonely and bored, you can always send me an IM. I’m always busy doing *something* but luckily most of the time it’s dancing or listening to live music or something equally social. Unless it’s the week before a fashion show. Hugs!

  7. Thanks, Seraphine 🙂

  8. Do you think we’d think about SL different if it weren’t called *Second* Life? If people do use it as a social networking tool, is it really “secondary”?

    I’m not sure if I think about Facebook/SL/IM clients/email as somehow one rung down the ladder.

    But the, maybe that’s my frustration with SL…

  9. I think for some people it’s a social networking tool. It’s not for me. That’s the beauty of it…it can be a social networking tool, a place to live out fantasies, a game platform, a 3D chat program, etc.

  10. I just use it for free neko sex, myself 😉

    Seriously, though (yes, that was a joke), it wouldn’t matter what they called the application, I would still feel the same way about it. For all that SL has to offer, there are certain things it can never provide. I think it can be a healthy addition to our real lives, but it should never take the place of them.

    This, of course, coming from the girl who has been spending most of her free time on the grid as of late . . .

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