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Friday, September 24, 2010


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Skylar Smythe

A great article!

I think people who separate themselves from their avatars (my Second Life is separate) are the scariest deluded folks I have ever met.

Typically if they have to create that kind of cognitive separation it means that they are doing something morally objectionable in Second Life and they need to distance themselves from it ethically.

There are certain things that belong offline. Intimate things such as romance, sex, eating, drinking, sleeping. These things are owned in our offline time and belong there for a reason.

Socializing, creating, fostering friendships... that is the extent of my engagement in Second Life. The good schtuff.

Would I do the pixel-lust thing again? Never. It did such a good job fulfilling my cognitive need for romance and companionship that I stopped seeking it out offline.

And there is no pixel in the world that can replace a real bonafide relationship. RL kisses and all. So why would anyone compromise and settle for cartoon affections instead of getting out there and finding themselves a relationship?

Ah. Because 70% of SL (or more) are married people engaging in escapist infidelity. They aren't single.

That's really the element of our society that is the most embarrassing and the one that discredits us the most.


Yordie Sands

Hi Night...

I think you've done a great job on this post. Your advice is probably hard to understand if you've just discovered SL, but after 90 days of initial addiction I think most peeps start to wonder about these issues.

Your 2nd point is really something everyone should do. I mean, sit down and define what they want. I have a pretty good idea after over 3 years inworld and endless hours of mulling the issues in my blog, but even now I can see that I need to do this formally. For one thing, it would give you a sense of how things are changing in your SL. And I've found that my goals have changed over time.

Again, nice work... Yordie

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Excellent work. I too worry that if Linden Lab folds, what might happen to those who "live" in SL. We all have a few on our friends list and, no matter when we log on, there they are.

I keep telling educators to have a Plan B, but it would be more serious still for social SLers with an addiction to the world. I hope those sorts of residents read your post and consider what they'd do if our virtual world of choice suddenly ended.

And let's not kid ouselves: it could. We're bigger than Metaplace or There or The Sims Online, but at one point each of those worlds had its regulars who build virtual lives. And then, it ended.

Arcadia Codesmith

Why Skylar, that was the most vicious attack I've seen yet on immersionists, and it was even backed up by fake numbers that you pulled out of your butt! Are you running for office?

Adeon Writer

I have my avatar all backed up in case anything ever happens to LL and SL vanishes. The avatar incorporates about ~15 different content creator's various clothing and accessories, yes, but, it's reserved for a much graver time, let's hope it never happens.

comoro Infinity

There is no effective way to relate to the value of your virtual presence by "practical" and "controlled" means. That is precisely why LL is failing.

Carrie Lexington

i started writing a response here, but it got too long, so i made a blog post instead:



Arcadia Codesmith

Go read Carrie's blog post -- critical point.

Keira seerose

A fine article.. except the part about not emotionally investing beyond what you can afford to lose. I'm sorry but thats not possible if you keep in mind that the people your talking to are 'real' as you yourself stated.

Emotional investments in your "SL" friends and, in some caes, partners, cannot be controlled to giving a certain amount. You love someone or you dont, no matter where you meet or how you communicate.

If my RL partner died tomorrow would I be depressed beyond belief? Yes. If my RL best friend got sick would I worry myself mad? Yes. If my SL best friend, who I talk to more than my RL best friend on a daily basis was distressed would I stay up all night talking to them to make sure theyre okay?

Of course I would, with no regrets.

I (if not the entire human species) cannot regulate my love for the people I care about, and I strongly object to that being a sign of being unbalanced. Loving the REAL people we meet through SL is not a sign of being unstable, its a sign that we have made a real emotional connection.

If you meet someone in a bar one night, and they say there names Fred and they make you laugh with dirty jokes, you know no more about them than if you met them in sl. Means of communication does NOT determine the depth of a relationship between two people.

Nova Dyszel

I've just returned from a long (8months) break from sl, and I think that was a good thing for me. I'm trying for better balance this time.

My number one rule is I am not allowed to deline or cancel any rl activities for sl time.

Number two, I have a fairly clear log off time.

Number three, one of the things I looked for coming back was another sl relationship. My rl broken heart and life are healing and I am not ready for a relationship in my rl but I could use some romance, fun, and sexual outlet, and I am more than happy to find that in sl. And I'm happy to say that is working really well. But as Night suggested, I had a clear sense of what I was looking for and my boundaries. I share rl information with my sl partner, we're FB friends, I have nothing to hide from anyone, but at the same time I have said clearly that I do not want it to cross to a rl romantic relationship.

As with anything you do for a serious amount of time in life the question is: is this adding to my life (the one life that I have)?

Arcadia Codesmith

Are you so invested in your virtual friendships that you would risk damaging your real-life relationships for them? There are a lot of people in that situation, and most of them are thinking, "oh, she'll never find out", "oh, he doesn't care what I do online", "oh, she's being selfish, I'm just having fun, what's the harm?" And too many of those people are hurt and broken when their real-life partner just doesn't come home one day.

Let me tell something I've learned. The real- life people you think could never leave you? They can. And if you're investing three times as much time online as you are tending to your real-life loves, you're making a very high-stakes, high-risk gamble.


I have a busy schedule outside of SL. Of course, I'm a part of a generation where most of my friends and classmates probably spend time playing WoW or some other game. We talk about things casually and try to have fun in different ways.

If you're worried about getting too into SL, schedule things for yourself to do irl. Join a club, volunteer somewhere, etc. You'll be so busy, that you'll be HAPPY to have time in SL after all of that.

Extropia DaSilva

>I think people who separate themselves from their avatars (my Second Life is separate) are the scariest deluded folks I have ever met.<

This shows a lack of understanding regarding the various states of mind the brain can generate. It might seem like everyone has one self, because everyone has one brain. However, the brain has many different processes, not all of which are compatible. From birth, the brain connects some memories via webs of association, and weakens the association between other memories. So, depending on genetic leanings and the experiences you are exposed to, your mind can evolve different kinds of mental states, some of which can make you feel very much like you are a single self, while others can make you feel as though your mind is cohabited by more than one self.

Functional imaging strongly suggests that this is not just as an act. For example, when measuring activity in 'personality switchers', brainwave coherence (which is a measure of which neurons have synchronized their firing) is completely different for each personality, which strongly suggests these people really do think and feel differently in each state. Crucially, when actors are asked to mimic personality-switching (or when real personality-switchers are asked to act out the condition) no such change in brainwave coherence is apparent.

These people are no more deluded in having a subjective sense of many selves than are people who feel they are one self. Each is simply one among many states of mind the brain can generate. The good thing about SL is that it enables each person to develop an avatar (or several!) that best suits how they truly feel, something that is not always possible in RL, what with the prejudices and presumptions society indoctrinates us with.

Extropia DaSilva

You might have heard of multiple personality disorder, or disociative identity disorder. MPD/DID is an extreme form of dissasociation in which personalities share no common memories and so are completey unaware of each other's presence. But some people have 'co-consciousness', which occurs when the mind develops many selves and also forges connections between them, such that the person is aware of the existence of others cohabiting in their head. The following is a transcript from one such person:

“First thing we have to do each week is check the stock lists on the computer, and that is really painstaking, detailed stuff. Personally, I would be hopeless at it, but Immy is great at it…People who know us well can always tell which of us has done a particular display…because we have very different styles…we can get locked into a tussle, with me arranging them one way, then P sneaking back and rearranging them…we came to this arrangement: I do it for a couple of weeks, then P does it”.

What if Immy and P were two avatars? Chances are, if you met them both in SL you would never know they share one mind. And, in some sense, they do not. Immy is one cluster of brain processes, P is another. There are weak ties between the clusters (if there were no ties, Immy think s/he alone existed in that mind, as would P) but the ties are not numerous and strong enough to make this person perceive a single self, or even a single self with different sides to its personality. S/he is many selves. Is this a delusion? Maybe, but only to the extent that any perception of self is a delusion.

Zero Calael

A very interesting post, and some equally interesting responses as well. I took a 3-month break from SL myself and found that to be very helpful. I'm back now with a different mindset, new rules, and a clearer sense of why I'm in SL at all. Where previously I was anesthetizing myself, now I'm very conscious of what I'm doing and why. That alone has created new insights about who I am, how I am, and where I'm headed.

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