Second Life may have its own built-in communication and networking tools, but they've never fully contained its community. If you're looking to make friends and keep in touch with other users what you do outside of SL is just as important as what you do inside of it. But where to even begin?
From Twitter to Tumblr to Flickr, many of the most popular social networks have accumulated their own Second Life communities, but each one is a little bit different from the others. For the Second Life resident who doesn't have much of a social footprint yet, it can be pretty daunting to pick the 'right' place to be. Here's how to figure out where you fit in.
Fledgling social network Ello experienced a spike of interest among many tech-focussed communities late last year because of its more minimalistic, hands-off approach. It was of particular interest to Second Life users because, unlike Facebook, Ello didn't care whether or not the name you were using was your legal name. Ello's also perhaps too minimalistic for its own good. Interest waned pretty damn fast, and the SL community there is essentially non-existent. I included it because it's new and maybe you heard about it from someone at some point... But don't bother.
As I mentioned, Facebook has a real name policy that has been a thorn in the side of SLers for a while now. Many people maintain Facebook accounts for their Second Life identities in spite of this, but bans are pretty common. Frankly, I just don't think it's worth the trouble.
Image sharing site Flickr is an absolute must if you want to be involved with the fashion or art scenes in Second Life. It's practically the linchpin for both. That said, it's not ideal in terms of navigation, but so long as you make good use of groups and galleries it's not so bad. Just be sure to flag your own virtual world work appropriately (Flickr is not a fan of labelling screenshots as photos) to keep your account in good standing.
Like Flickr, Koinup is an image and video sharing site with a dedicated Second Life community. Unlike Flickr, Koinup was built with games and virtual worlds in mind. The community is smaller and many of them use both sites to reach as many people as possible, but in my experience the Koinup community is a little more earnest. On a bad day Flickr can feel like a sycophantic mess, so it's good to have an alternative.
People who don't use Second Life, don't live in South East Asia, or don't participate in anime roleplaying have rarely even heard of Plurk -- and honestly I think that's kind of a shame. It lies somewhere between Twitter and forums, marrying the easy to follow discussions of the latter with the fast-moving timeline of the former. Plurk is a massive part of SL's social ecosystem, particularly for fashionistas and bloggers. If I had to rank these networks in order of importance, I'd probably pin Plurk right at the top.
To my knowledge SLuniverse is the oldest third-party Second Life forum, and given that description it's everything you would expect. Most of its users have been around for a while, and in many cases they might be what you'd consider power users of SL. They've been using SLU for a while too, and they've developed their own forum culture in that time. I'd advise newer players to steer clear of SLU, but if you're confident and you've been around for a little while then it's well worth checking out.
Tumblr is a popular blogging platform with more social features built in than most of its competition. That's helped it flourish particularly among teens and 20-somethings (including myself) much in the way that Livejournal flourished a decade ago. Second Life makes up a fairly small slice of the Tumblr pie, but if you're more interested in galaxy-print mesh goods than you are randos talking about Oculus Rifts then it may be a good fit for you.
Oh, Twitter... I just don't know. Twitter's biggest advantage is its size. There are plenty of Second Life enthusiasts to be found there, but the content you'll find on Twitter is world apart from what you'll find on Plurk. Twitter tends to be a little more reserved, and discussions are much smaller just by virtue of the format. Most of the Second Life content I see on Twitter could be qualified as 'broadcasting', meaning that it's people announcing new blog posts or news stories or making pithy comments about some new development or another. To me personally, it feels cold and detached compared to Plurk. Then again, maybe there's something to be said for that. Plurk can be a hotbed for drama, off-topic arguments and general noise. It's a more fun and relaxed group there compared to Twitter, but that's not always a good thing, and it's not going to be for everyone.
Hopefully that will help you find the network (or set of networks) for your Second Life self. If you know of any other social networks with thriving SL scenes, feel free to share them in the comments below!Tweet
Janine Hawkins (@bleatingheart on Twitter, Iris Ophelia in Second Life) has been writing about virtual worlds and video games for nearly a decade, and has had her work featured on Paste, Kotaku, Jezebel and The Mary Sue.