Iris Ophelia's ongoing take on etiquette & ethics in virtual spaces
We were all new to Second Life at one point or another, and it probably wasn't a very glamourous period for anyone (for example, check out the above pic of my 4-month old avatar posted by Hamlet in 2006). Second Life is not the most user-friendly virtual world to learn, both socially and technically. Experienced users can be pretty intolerant of newbies even though we've all made the same silly mistakes, so I have a few tips for newbies and oldbies alike-- not questions and answers, but points that will hopefully help everyone understand each other a little better. Let's talk about three key Ls: Love, Learning, and Linden Dollars:
Money (Linden Dollars)
I think most residents will agree that me most annoying habit of new users is to ask other people for L$, and it's something that I've even addressed in the past. If you're a new player this is one thing that you absolutely mustn't do, unless the person you're asking is a friend already. Why? Well, very few people in Second Life get free money or handouts. Nearly everyone works for what they have or buys it with their own real money. In that way L$ is as much a currency as it is a sign of commitment, and begging strangers for a currency that trades for pocket change can come off as very disrespectful. They don't know you or know what your commitment level is. Even when you're asking friends, keep the number low (and tell them exactly why you want it) or they may not be friends for long.
I'm a firm believer that having access to free L$ at the beginning of your time in SL can be the difference between getting hooked and getting bored, so I hate that it's so hard for new users to get L$ without pulling out a credit card. That's why I think that it's important not to leave someone empty handed when they do ask for L$. Instead of paying, suggest new players visit sites like FabFree, Free*Style, or Second Life Freebies. If you're feeling charitable give them a few L$ as well, not to encourage their begging but so they'll be able to pick up some dollarbies as well. Don't mock players who ask for money, either. Rememberthat everyone is a newbie at some point, and today's L$ beggar might be tomorrow's top designer or land mogul. Do you want to be the person that helped them get there faster, or the one that kicked them when they were down?
Let's be honest and admit that a lot of people still come to SL for sex... And a lot of them still open with "hey do u wana fuk". I can't say this with 100% certainty, but I'm almost positive that no one has ever responded positively to getting that IM from a new player with a featureless default skin and a bright green 4-prim free penis they found somewhere. So don't waste your digital breath. There are plenty of places devoted to virtual sex in SL, so if that is what you're after your first stop should be to make sure your account can access Mature/Adult areas and then look them up in Search. Don't IM people who are shopping or minding their own business unless you have a fetish for blunt rejection.
And what if you get one of these IMs? Your reaction should be pretty similar to a request for L$: Don't be mean, don't mock or belittle them, just direct them elsewhere. It takes all kinds to make a world, after all.
You shouldn't be afraid to ask for help when you're new to Second Life. While there used to be a better structure in place for personally helping new players things were a little different, but these days joining SL can be like being thrown to the wolves (especially the first time you get dropped into a Welcome Area, which are more confusing and chaotic than they are welcoming). It takes time to learn. You may never master every aspect of SL, and that's fine. Learning is all about knowing who to ask and how to ask them, and sometimes you may only need to ask Google.
Most people in Second Life are perfectly nice if you give them the chance to be, so be polite and thoughtful and in most cases you'll get that in return. Eventually you'll make friends and find your niche, and before you know it you'll be the one fielding requests for free L$!Tweet
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.