Thursday, June 21, 2012

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Iris Rants: Why SLsecret Drives me RL Crazy

SL Secret

Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of virtual world and MMO fashion

When people start talking about SLsecret (like Hamlet did earlier this week) I have a hard time containing my opinion (and it's not a very popular opinion).

To put it politely, I don't think much of SLsecret. For insiders, it's a sideshow where ugliness is catharsis and entertainment, and for outsiders who don't use Second Life, well... They just make us all look like assholes. Here's what I mean:

I know that SLsecret started out with the best of intentions, modelled on the profoundly interesting Postsecret phenomenon, where anonymous people make anonymous confessions to the anonymous internet. Unfortunately, things got out of control quite quickly. Postsecret is not the place to tell your ex-best friend that you hate her guts and she has a face like a depressed pig, but SLsecret is (unless you use her name or picture of course).

The blog that hosts this feature, Shopping Cart Disco, handles it like a physical bomb, sometimes closing comments and frequently removing secrets that cross the line to keep destruction to a minimum. Of course, I don't blame them for sustaining the feature, as it generates truly impressive and valuable traffic every week. Most of us love a fix of juicy drama. We love the game of trying to figure out what's being said about who and why-- Plurk teems with this sort of chatter every week when the secrets come out. If you're going to tell me that you read SLsecret for the rare uplifting submissions, then I suspect you're either lying or regularly wasting your time. The fact remains that for nearly four years now, SLsecret has been the place to go if you want to see the worst of the worst in Second Life's fashion community.

That's the other thing... While Postsecret attracts submitters and readers from different spheres, SLsecret is almost exclusively a fashionista phenomenon. Unfortunately, it's entirely common for  Postsecret clones in online fashion communities to turn into breeding grounds for the most repellant attitudes and behaviors that fashionistas are so often stereotyped for. If you don't believe me, try looking at things from the perspective of an outsider. Here's an example:

I love sugary-sweet Lolita fashion, but I hate the bitterness of their secrets communities like Behind the Bows, where adorable girls in adorable fashion talk about how much they just fucking hate that other adorable girl in the adorable fashion because she's fat or ugly or not wearing the right brand or not wearing socks. I wish I was exaggerating. Go ahead and take a look for yourself, and tell me it doesn't just repulse you. When I look at Behind the Bows, the feeling of disgust I get is probably very similar to the feeling that fashionista outsiders get when they look at SLsecret. They don't think "Oh these people seem fun" or "I want to be in this community". They're probably thinking "These are horrible, horrible people."

Is it cathartic to upload these kinds of secrets? Is it still serving a purpose to us? Recently a popular designer went through a messy break-up with her SL partner, and she discussed it avidly on Plurk. Tons of people joined in to support her there, and many of those same people were waiting for the next SLsecret post with baited breath. Everyone expected her to post about it, they wanted to see what she would say. Her identity wasn't a secret, neither were those of the other people involved in the situation, and everyone was already well versed on the issue so there could hardly be any new information. In fact, a significant number of SLsecret aren't secrets at all -- the images associated with the secret often make it incredibly clear who the target is. It's just an incredibly passive-aggressive way to lash out at someone in front of a guaranteed audience. When you're legitimately hurt, this kind of thing can be refreshing and cathartic, don't get me wrong... but when you're just being a catty bitch about someone you don't care for? Honestly, we can do without.

I would love SLsecret if it was as raw and self-reflective as Postsecret, but as it stands now, it's a festering wound in the SL fashion community that reveals all of our worst qualities, and we really need to stop picking the scab.

Mixed_reality_iris2010 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.

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Pussycat Catnap

I think your opinion is wider than you think it is.

Items like SLSecrets are just very bad drama fests of vile, hate mongering, and vindictive pettiness.

There's a stereotype about SL players, one put out by LLs very founder - that we are all lame pathetic geeks in mom's basement suffering assorted mental illnesses and physical handicaps.

In other words: we are the crowd that got picked on by the trendy kids in high school.

So what really fascinates me is that - if the above is even 10% correct, why do SLers so often play themselves up as trendy fashionista jerks - why strive so hard to become the kind of people who more likely did you the most harm in your life?

Isn't this basically just all that hateful teenage drama, being repeated by a, lets face it, mostly middle aged crowd?

All the little bickering those trendy white girls would do to put everyone else down... ya'll couldn't be one of them growing up, they hated you, they hated me, they hated everyone who wasn't in their country club - now you pretend to be one of them? Burn em out I say, don't join em, send em packing out of my hood.

Why become the monster that tired so hard to devour and destroy you?

That's what I see in these things. I see middle aged folks who were likely not a part of that youthful in-crowd, who instead of owning pride in what they are and the many things they have achieved -despite- those catty little preppy girls and jocks in high school working so hard to pretend they are their former abusers.


Pussycat Catnap

My last sentence above could have used better punctuation...

"I see middle aged folks who were likely not a part of that youthful in-crowd. Folks who instead of owning pride in what they are and the many things they have achieved, -despite- those catty little preppy girls and jocks in high school; work so hard to pretend they are their former abusers."

shockwave yareach

I have a better approach -- if you can't say something constructive, say nothing at all. Thus I don't share my venomous writings with anyone in the world, as they are locked away on a hard drive where they do no-one (including me) any harm. Even anonymously posted poison is still poison. And if a person doesn't have the stones to do something about what is bugging them, then what is the point of telling the world it bugs them?

There is too much negativity in humanity as it is. I see no reason to add to it. Rather I would like to leave the world better than the way I found it (which isn't going too well, truth be told.) So any of these sites which are nothing but people complaining to the void, I have zero interest or time to partake in.

Rowan Derryth

HERE HERE Iris.

SL Secrets is bloody stupid. Are these people in high school? I've looked at it about three times when people on my plurkline have intimated there was something about them on it. Each time, I read it, was momentarily fascinated like looking at a car crash, then I thought 'thank god I am not part of this scene.' The arts community has enough drama... but at least our snark is in your face, not this passive aggressive nonsense.

Yeah, it really makes that world look horrible, and incredibly immature.

Vaki

I couldn't possibly agree more. SL Secret is petty and embarrassing, and not only do I not read it (and spend most of my Sundays muting plurk threads), I generally avoid Shopping Cart Disco because of it. This is a shame, because SCD has other, much more valuable content, such as Cajsa's excellent What I Like column, which I would read regularly if it were hosted elsewhere. I just prefer not to give traffic to that kind of negativity.

Commizar Janick

I agree 100%. I took one look at that page and was struck with an overwhelming level of disgust at what I found. Much of it was over petty little things and I didn't care to read a bit of it. As a 30 something it made me wonder about the average age of the posters.

Cicadetta

I'll admit to reading SLsecret. I'm not a fashionista (not even close), and I rarely understand any of them. But, like any reasonably normal human, the urge to see train wrecks is difficult (if not impossible) to overcome.

Would it be possible for a bunch of us to, uh, invade SLsecret with positivity? The thing's not going away any time soon, but that doesn't mean it can't be pushed...

Alicia Chenaux

"Would it be possible for a bunch of us to, uh, invade SLsecret with positivity?"

Of course it would be possible. Do people do it? No, not very often.

If you want SL Secrets to be all happy and uplifting, you have to write happy and uplifting secrets. Most people choose not to because they're writing something that's been on their mind that they cannot tell to the person they're writing about because to do so would cause even more drama.

Don't complain about something you're unwilling to help change.

Cicadetta

"Don't complain about something you're unwilling to help change."

Hey, I'm putting it out to the NWN community and working on something to upload. (The wording is important.)

Drama's more dramatic when it's "secret," anyway.

Hamlet Au

Personally, I think "mean, vicious secrets vs. nice, happy secrets" is a false dichotomy. Post Secret has a lot of secrets that are dark, sad, angry, etc. Like I said before, the core difference is that Post Secret are generally secrets about the poster, not primarily what they think about others.

Alicia Chenaux

"Like I said before, the core difference is that Post Secret are generally secrets about the poster, not primarily what they think about others."

Except for when the Postsecret phone app came out and had to be disabled within a month because people got super vicious. Given the chance, people are jerks. This is not exclusive to SL or the SL fashion crowd.

Hamlet Au

Alicia, that suggests Post Secret's success is based on editorial control. I'm sure Frank gets a lot of passive aggressive and nasty secrets about others, but he mostly doesn't run those on the main blog. Doing this creates a virtuous feedback loop, encouraging people to share secrets about themselves, while discouraging those with negative secrets about others (since they start getting the hint that it's unlikely their secrets will be published.)

Cicadetta

"Like I said before, the core difference is that Post Secret are generally secrets about the poster, not primarily what they think about others."

Even so, SLsecret will probably remain different than PostSecret, and one doesn't necessarily need to push it in the direction of "posting glum secrets about oneself." And positive secrets about others aren't juicy, I get that. But at least they're not negative secrets about others. Well, to be fair, nobody needs to push it at all. It can be left to fester in secret, right? One can complain about the smell it gives off, maybe sprinkle some lime around it now and again, and shrug one's shoulders at the stalwart old mansion.

To be honest, that's probably what will happen. And the fashionista drama will continue. But who knows...

Informed Anon

I despise SL Secrets. I've been targeted a bunch of times, its destroyed friendships of mine and caused grief amongst my closest friends. The excuse parroted back by the blog staff every time is "SL Secrets is what the community makes it." I think it ruins any chance of community building, and I also feel that the editors of SCD need to wake up and realise that this is their fault - they provide the platform, they need to accept the responsibility.

Emerald Wynn

Back when I was a youngster in fifth grade, we had a horrible method of bullying that I don't know if is still practiced by kids today or not. It was called a Slam Book - someone would buy a notebook, write a girl's name on it and secretly pass it around. People would anonymously write things about that particular girl in it. Some of the things would be sweet comments, but a lot of them were vicious, like, "[Name]'s nose is so big, I have to duck whenever she turns around." or "Did you go to E's slumber party? The furniture in her house is soooooo ugly - did they get it at The Salvation Army?" (Yep, years later, I still remember some of the comments about me verbatim.)

Then eventually someone would shove the notebook in the victim's locker or leave it on her desk. Good times.

I like PostSecret - I even have a couple of the books. I wish SL Secret did the concept more justice. I won't complain about it beyond that because I admit that I read it. And in its defense, someone posted a nice secret about me once that made my day - although then someone replied with a mean comment about it that hurt my feelings. (Gosh, we're so mature here!)

I just think we need to rename it SL Slam Book. Because that's what it reminds me of. All we need is a virtual spiral-bound notebook with Lisa Frank stickers all over it and we'd be all set.

Little Miss Dramatic Breakup

Hey <3

I just wanted to share my thoughts on this, as someone who has obviously recently been exposed to it. I'm the person who dealt with the breakup drama by ranting on plurk, and I spent all last week talking about people excited about the secrets, and knowing I would be involved in them, so I figured I'd tell you what it felt like.

The ranting on plurk was so cathartic, to me. I was trying to deal with a messy, hurtful situation - the kind where every hour that goes by, you find out some new horrible thing - and my plurk friends honestly were the silver lining in my cloud of bullshit.

But the next few days of hearing about SL Secrets just as often as the rubbish I was dealing with was like a knife twist every time. People kept telling me they were submitting something and at first it was kind of funny because, you know, fuck them both. But the more I thought, the more I realised how horrid it would actually be, and by Saturday night I would have rather bumped into them wearing mismatched prim feet than those secrets ever go up on Sunday.

I was honestly expecting to get torn to shreds myself - not everyone is your friend at the end of the day, and I have plenty of not-friends! I've had secrets aimed at me before and it sucks but you just have to keep some perspective really. When there's a secret and I'm pretty sure it's about me, I have a little whine on plurk, but that's about it - it doesn't bother me on any real level because they've been so silly.

But no, the other female was destroyed, and it was nauseating to read. The secrets didn't just call her petty names, they attacked her on real levels, mentioning real world things that were absolutely not fair game. I would get calling them shitty people, but some of the secrets were upsetting even to me, because I knew it was there because of me. (But on the other hand, as I said, fuck them). The only person in that situation who could have legtimately been that angry at her was me, but I didn't submit a thing.

I get that what she (and he - don't get me started on why she took the brunt of the abuse, but the girls=sluts guys=studs thing seems alive and well) did was pretty horrible, but she did it to ME. The secrets submitted weren't a dark little confession you can't say out loud, they were barbed and targeted attacks on some internet person who did a shitty thing to some other internet person.

I understand the traffic argument, I really do. It's the same reason that Gaddafi's final moments were played out on news channels on loop all day. Interesting things, even if they're horrible, are fascinating. SL Secrets are scandalous, and they're relateable, and they're accessible, and none of those are good reasons for something that is ONLY used as a platform to bully to remain.

And I totally did submit a secret this week - I knew how many people would be waiting for them to come out, so I submitted one thanking my friends for their support. It was the only thing worth saying :)

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Well said, Iris. I agree wholeheartedly.

Lourdes

"I also feel that the editors of SCD need to wake up and realise that this is their fault - they provide the platform, they need to accept the responsibility."

Ok fine we accept responsibility for providing a platform for people to be vile and spew hate. There are you happy?
We also provide a platform for people to be positive. Truth of the matter, SL Secrets is not going away. As I've said 100 times before, SL Secrets will go away when no one submits secrets and people stop reading them.
But you know the more you talk about how horrible we are the more people become curious to see the train wreck. You bring us more more viewers and we've had a flood of secrets submitted this week. So please continue to give us face time, you are contributing to the continued success of something you find so revolting.

Iris Ophelia

@LMDB And I LOVED that one, because it was just about the classiest thing anyone's ever done in that sort of situation. It was super refreshing. <3

Hamlet Au

Lourdes, why not try running an SL Secrets in which there are *no* personal attacks, and it's just people revealing secrets about themselves? Don't have to be happy, feel-good secrets, they can also be dark, sad, angry, salacious, etc. That's much more how Post Secret's editorial works, and it's one of the biggest blogs online. And if you give it a try, I promise to link to it, so you have an assured traffic hit there.

Pussycat Catnap

Larry Flint help us all. :)

Even peddlers of filth and smut have a right to do so.

That's what we have here.

But some people confuse a right to do something with a duty to do it.

Its disgusting - we'd be better off if they shut it down - and if they had any class they would do so or at least moderate it.

val kendal

"...the feeling of disgust I get is probably very similar to the feeling that fashionista outsiders get when they look at SLsecret. They don't think "Oh these people seem fun" or "I want to be in this community". They're probably thinking "These are horrible, horrible people."

yup. pretty much. that nails it.

Connie Arida

There is one crime that SL secrets and the others of it's ilk have committed that is unforgivable, abominable and appaling. It's boring.

Arcadia Codesmith

I would say the odds of anybody outside the SL community stumbling across SL Secrets is slim, so our reputation as sterling members of the social order is in no danger :P

Other than that, who cares? The key to drama is that it takes two or more to play. If nobody cares about your carefully-crafted drama, all you've got is solitary angst. Don't invest in other people's angst.

Iris Seale

Ok, as the person who actually gets up ungodly early on Sunday morning to put together the post so that the secrets posted Saturday night are included, I'd love to weigh in here.

Here's how secrets work: They're uploaded anonymously to our server and stored in a special, encrypted, password protected folder. As far as I know, only 3 people have the password. Once I log in to check them out, I read every one, skype more in-the-know SL friends or google what I think might be obvious references in them, and if they don't break the rules they get downloaded to the archive on my backup hard drive and then uploaded to SCD to be put in the post. The others are deleted. I should point out that what you see on Sunday morning isn't nearly 1/3 of what actually gets submitted. For the record, some of you guys are really, really weird.

This was my personal project. Back in the day, when we went to what I think of 'SCD 2.0' with our own domain and all, the editors each had something new they wanted to add. SLsecret was mine and Kess worked her butt off to make an anon uploader and get it secure enough to happen. And yeah, I wanted to see introspective, creative secrets. That was the goal. The mark was, well, missed. But occasionally we get some amazing secrets that make me laugh or cry or that have really fantastic art and that's when it's great.

I know I'm not in-world or on plurk much anymore. Like, hardly ever, really. But I stick around for Secrets because it's my baby and, believe it or not, a lot of work and discretion goes into the post every week. And it's true, it is what you make it. Sure, we could do a post of positive secrets with no personal attacks even if they don't break posting rules, but it's not my place to tell the person pissed off enough to write a mean secret that what they're feeling is invalid. And for the record, every week multiple people think the same secret is about them. Odds are, it's not, just so you know. We usually get about 20 different take-down notices for the same secret.

But thank you, Hamlet and Iris, for the thoughtful posts. This week marks our 200th SLsecret post and I've been toying with the idea of asking Kess if we can make some changes. But in the meantime, please upload the kind of secrets you'd like to see because the readers make Secrets what it is every week. I've never not posted a positive, creative secret yet.

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