Thousands of people in Second Life are lying about their age, gender, race, social backgrounds, occupations and heaven knows what else. Such is the power of a virtual identity – it allows us to be whoever we wish to be.

And wouldn’t you wish to be who you want to be, rather than who you are?

What happens when you prefer the virtual identity you’ve created because it’s more appealing than the real one? What happens when you decide to live virtually?

I’ll put my hand up and say that I spend a considerable amount of time in virtual worlds, but that’s primarily because it’s a viable source of income to me, and secondly because it’s an enjoyable experience.

Developing such close contacts with other people in this metaverse allows me to find varying levels of how much people tell about their real identities, and how they react to other people as well their issue with trust in a virtual world. My experience tells me that the people who are the most secretive are the ones who find it hardest to trust others.

On a recent blogpost, someone commented that a large proportion of SL users will have socio-dysfunctional issues, and will henceforth be unable to interact in the real world as well as they do within the anonymity of Second Life.

There is something very enticing about this alternative life that allows us to transform our identity, particularly for people who are dissatisfied with their first lives. I know the reason for me is that I want recognition and satisfaction for my architectural designs, but in real life I lack the age and experience.. my downfall is patience in this respect. I know that someday I’ll be designing in the real world, but I want that experience now – and the virtual world offers that. For other people, the reasons will be different.

Virtual worlds are designed to draw you in and be addictive by nature, at the expense of your first life happiness. The prospect of living a happier, alternate existance where you have more control over who you are is essentially more attractive.

Millions of people in various online worlds are whiling the hours away, and the vast majority are making a conscious choice to live their lives this way. I don’t think it’s something that we should pass judgement on, but the fact is there – we’re SLaddicts. Some with deny this, others will accept it and state “So what.. I’m happy.”

The majority will say they don’t want to quit, and have no intention of doing so. I appreiciate that some people will be on Second Life from dawn to dusk, and that can have a cost to first life – it can be hard to hold down a job, socially interact in the real world and maintain physical health when you’re sat in front of the computer.

Second Life is no less real to the First Life, for the prescence of Love and Money in the virtual world make it feel very real. But there certainly does need to be a balance between the two, and with the New Year approaching, it may be a good time for some people to re-evaluate their priorities.

Me? I’m going to live both lives to the max.

May you have a prosperous 2009.



6 Responses to “SLaddiction”

  1. Excellent, excellent essay.

    The ‘balance’ is what’s hardest when you need that ‘refuge’ aspect, I find. I moved countries last year, and my SL ‘home’ was a point of reference when I was making the transition – but one I turned to almost too often.

    SL allows me to create (er… furniture and interiors and houses – we met briefly at the Second Style contest). In RL, I “paint” with words, but the 3-D design aspect was a huge, huge discovery after years of textile art, painting, etc. for fun.

    And, as a foreigner somewhere for the last *mumble* years, to be able to ‘talk’ in English is also great.

    I’ve avoided messing up my RL income or relationship (touching wood). I don’t stay up until the wee small hours any more. But the more I learn about creating, the more great people I meet, the harder I find it to keep that balance at times.

  2. Yes the balance is the constant juggling act. And for some who’s first life is wrought with more than the average amount of complexities… due to emotional issues, hardships, or other… that balance can completely tip into pouring everything they have into their virtual existence.

    Almost three years ago I was finding it very hard to find that balance myself. Although my ability to make good decisions was altered by health issues at the time. These made me even more susceptible. Now healthier, it’s still hard not to *want* to find what it was that made me feel so euphoric then even though I no longer think I can find that same feeling… nor would I want to go back there 🙂

    Great Post!

  3. Elizabeth Hallstrom Says:

    Its tough to balance when you get so wrapped up in this virtual world. I can’t say I ran to SL but somehow I fell into it. And for the last 6 months I have been putting my self in situations and relationships that have been less than healthy and hurting some good people in the process. Yes, I could play the blame game and says “well these people have issues” but there is obviously something inside me that is allowing these people into my life. So over the last month or two I have slowly but surely hit the delete button. And even though I am hurting now by their words, I hope in the long run it will help bring that balance back I so desperately need.

  4. The other frightening factor of addiction to an online element, be it SL, World of WarCraft, or another platform, is the issue that most societies do not take it seriously. People often throw around the term ‘addicted’ for someone who just spends a lot of time on something, whether or not it is actually disabling their ability to function normally. This can be crippling for someone trying to recover. I can say my last serious psychologist would be pissed that I still log-on to SL because not only was it the source of a lot of my destructive actions, but because it was something very new and ‘unreal’ to her. Oddly enough, this butting of heads shook me up enough to get a grip and find my balance. It’s difficult to maintain, as there are a combination of other factors affecting the situation, but I manage.

    I guess what really helps me right now is considering whether or not my actions are worth remembering when I’m older. Do I want to look back twenty, thirty, forty years from now and see something productive or stale? I’m a bit of a productivity freak, so that’s been my motivation. So, for the people that are “happy”, I agree that they should re-evaluate and think about their futures. Or perhaps back to their past- is this what they dreamed they’d be when they were 13, 9 or 5 years old?

    Johnny Cash’s daughter said that a person can only save themself from themselves, no matter how hard someone else tries. Someone else can come close, but it rests on the individual.

  5. Elizabeth Hallstrom Says:

    Great quote Terry

  6. […] it’s very easy for it to become addictive, as I’ve said in the past. MMOs like Second Life pose a real risk of destroying relationships and livelihoods if you […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: