Miss Ophelia's Metaverse Manners: How Should You Share a Virtual World With Adults Who Roleplay as Children?
Iris Ophelia's ongoing take on etiquette & ethics in virtual spaces
Child avatars and SL families are issues that never fail to divide the Second Life community sharply. Some people love them, some hate them, some accept them but don't want to be anywhere near them. No matter what your stance, it's undeniable that there's a whole world of ethical issues to consider.
I found SL families by accident and now I want to switch to being a child avatar all the time, but my friends don't think I'm serious about this. What is the best way to "come out of the closet" to them?
People often find what they need emotionally in real life after spending time in Second Life, andin the metaverse we're often less encumbered by the things that keep us from meeting these needs in RL. So if this is something you want to explore, you should. While a few bad apples have given many people a sour opinion of child avatars, most are really just people who just want to enjoy the innocent nostalgia of childhood.
Start wearing your new avatar more often so your friends will get used to it. You're still the same friend you always were, even if your avatar changes, and any friend worth keeping should come to realize that eventually.
Keep reading for three more questions that aren't just child's play!
My SL kid is getting too invested in our family, I feel like we can't have a serious conversation and that she's expecting me to drop everything in my real life to read her stories and take her places. I'm not sure how to tell her to back off a little without ruining the family.
- Mommy Dearest
Oddly, if you're having a hard time getting her "out of character", you may want to have a sit down talk with her and any other parent figures in your family. Together, explain to her that you have other responsibilities that are important outside of the virtual household, and that you need to be able to communicate with her one-on-one sometimes as a friend more than as a daughter. If she's significantly more committed to the family act than you are, she might just be a bad fit for your household. A split might be painful, but there's no reason she can't still drop by as a favorite cousin!
I hate kid avatars that do that baby talk, how can I make them stop?
Easy. Mute them. It's their right to talk however they like, and your right to mute them if it bothers you. Don't get me wrong, I loathe the baby talk too, but I'm sure there's someone out there who hates my overly verbose rambling just as much. Thankfully Second Life gives us the tools to silence people that annoy us without infringing on their rights either.
When I go out as my young self, sometimes I'm kicked out of shops and harassed. What should I do when these things happen?
- Pint-Size Pariah
It's unfortunate but child avatars are often persecuted because of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and a handful of miscreants. First of all, make sure that whenever you go to a "Mature" location you have an adult avatar to wear, and avoid "Adult" locations altogether. Most of the stigma and discomfort around child avatars has to do with sexually-motivated age-play, so the more you can separate yourself from that preconception, the less static you'll get from others.
As always, mute and file abuse reports against people who are harassing you in world. It's a land owner's right to eject you if they want, however. Don't get in an argument with them in IMs or send your friends or family in to defend you. It's unlikely that you'll be able to change their mind, and you might get yourself in trouble in the process, and that's definitely not worth it. There are lots of kid-friendly SL businesses that would be happy to accept your L$ if they won't!
Submit your virtual etiquette dilemmas to ophelia.iris [at] gmail [dot] com, or submit anonymously to the Metaverse Manners Formspring. Be sure to include a pseudonym (i.e. "WTF from the Welcome Area") so you know when I'm addressing your query!
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.