Becca asks: “Should there be a clear separation between Second Life and real life, or should Second Life be merely an extension or augmentation of our online presence?”
Back in 2012 I wrote an article called “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life“. Some things are still as true then as they are now, whilst other things are a little out of date, so I have decided to revisit it and update it.
Some of the people I meet in Second Life want to know all about my real life, about how I look or where I live, or how old I am, or any number of other things. And I tell them that, quite apart from privacy, I simply don’t see things like that as having any relevance to my Second Life. And, further, I don’t particularly want them to volunteer anything about themselves either. I’m simply not interested in their “skinvelope” (or, as I have heard others refer to it, their “meatsack” or “meat rider”, which I confess aren’t phrases I’m particularly enamoured with) and want to get to know the real person, unencumbered by the trappings of real life. Some of these people have got quite defensive about my attitude and asked how I can know the real person when I say I don’t want to know the real life person. Some have even called me crazy. Well, allow me to explain what I mean.
I think the key phrase for me is “unencumbered by the trappings of real life”, and by that I mean free from any prejudices of race, height, weight, physical beauty (or lack of), age, gender, or any number of other things that colour our perception of the other person whether consciously or subconsciously. For me, there is a purity in keeping things SL-only. Some may call that Immersionism but I prefer to see it as accepting the other person for how they choose to present themselves. If the beautiful woman in front of me with the impeccable fashion sense, and who appears to be in her 20’s, is actually a 45 year-old mum of four whose tits headed South round about child two, and whose clothes in real life are more Matalan than Milan, then does it really matter? Or, for that matter, if in real life she is a 24 stone, 58 year-old trucker named Barry with a beer belly in a different postal zone.
If they utterly convince me in SL and stay in character then that’s good enough for me. Perhaps it isn’t good enough for you, and the real life information alters your perception of them. But if it does, then perhaps it speaks more of your preconceptions than it does of them?
The point is that Second Life is meant to be a place where we can cast off the roll of the dice that made us what we are physically in real life and roll them again in SL. And in SL you can use loaded dice and choose how you want to be. And I think that people should respect that and not try to undo it by dragging RL into things. After all, it’s called “Second Life” not “Augmented Real Life”.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m against discussing aspects of RL. The kind of music you like, the books, films, and art you like, the jokes you tell, the quips you make, what you think and say – they are all part of you as a person and they are shared between RL and SL. But what I’m trying to convey is a separation between the personality that is “you” and the physical container for it.
If you think about this, it’s not such an unreasonable supposition. If you look around SL you will very rarely see a person in a wheelchair, or someone walking with the aid of a stick, or bed-ridden. Why would someone choose to limit themselves in SL when it gives them opportunities to enjoy things in SL that are denied to them in real life? I’d venture to suggest that there is simply no need to carry over that attribute of their real life body into SL unless, for whatever reason or agenda, they chose to do so. And I’d say the same for someone’s physical sex too; I have several transgender friends who I consider to be cis female in SL regardless of the roll of the dice they got in real life.
Sadly, as many far better bloggers than I have already pointed out, my attitude is becoming increasingly quaint and old-fashioned in the modern age of social media and a joined-up internet “experience”, where people are used to sharing their entire identity in cyberspace and anyone who doesn’t is branded an ‘escapist’ and it is implied that they have something to hide.
I think that’s a great shame.
See also my follow-up post “Body (and head) shaming in Second Life, and the definition of self.”
11 thoughts on “Unencumbered by the trappings of Real Life (revisited)”
I’ve personally never cared much about a person’s real life. Second Life has always been just that for me.. a SECOND life. It’s not “real” life. The only thing I ever ask a person is their age, and even that is rare. The age itself has no bearing on anything, I think it’s more of a curiosity for me to see how Second Life can break down the barriers we face in RL. For example, my first friend when I joined Second Life YEARS ago was 45 years old, yet I was only 21. I found and still find it super interesting that in Second Life, that age gap means nothing towards our bond where in Real Life, we would have most likely never spoken.
That being said, Second Life shouldn’t be about seeking out who someone is in their RL. Whether they are roleplaying or not, what they chose to show you should be enough. If you enjoy who they are in Second Life, who cares who they are in real life. It’s not always the same for some of us.
We are a dying breed though, I promise you that. Second Life has moved right along with social media and we have a decent amount of young people who come in and they all want to share their RL experiences and photos on facebook. There’s nothing wrong with that, and even I shared my RL pic in my profile back when I was younger, but I don’t see how it’s a big deal other than people making it a big deal. I personally miss the days when more people leaned toward not condemning you for not sharing every little aspect of your RL.
Totally agree, Pookie. Very well put!
During a Facebook debate on this article, someone posted an old YouTube video that rather illustrates my point.
Another interesting comment from someone on the Facebook debate was:
That does seem like a fair summary of what I am saying.
It is from Life 2.0: Augmentationists in Second Life and beyond and I have updated the Further Reading section accordingly.
You can read the whole debate here, if you are a member of the “Second Life Friends” Facebook group.
I love love love your attitude about SL and I can support it with my reason why. I met my current husband in Second Life, and we fell deeply in love long before we knew what each other looked like. I am an abuse victim and in person he would have terrified me because he is 6’2″ built like a linebacker. But I got to meet the gentle soul inside first. Bravo to you because I really believe you have the right idea of SL.
I agree with everything you said, Becca (: I have a different take again, on SL, where my avatar has lived for over seven years. I am male, my avatar is female… my avatar is not me, not an expression of gender-confusion, not a trick; she is herself. I think of her as a person. In much the same way as I’ve always played female characters in video games since Lara Croft, because I am far more interested in looking at a female than a male (and for some reason, have never seen avatars/characters as me), and do not have any problem at all with kick-ass woman, I always feel a bond with my characters. I am not neurotic, and well aware I am anthropomorphising, but I love my SL avatar… especially since I first bought her an AO, which instantly changed her into an animate object… there is a whole thesis, there, I’m sure. Anyway, I love SL because it is an alternative universe connected to our own, physical one, where anything is possible, and where even the most mundane things can have fantastic twists… a place bursting with talent and skill. Many SL users, of course, are oblivious to this SL, being only interested in the truly mundane but, hey, good luck to them!
Have you seen this?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBEdq4RGsMw
It’s really interesting, though not for prudes, as it covers some of SL’s sleazier users, though the coverage is not gratuitous, as it ties into the bigger theme.
What is real life, but the trappings we are forced into. Who’s to say real life isn’t a computer simulation such as in the Matrix. Our eyes actually translate pixels at a high resolution to our brains to give us the images we see in this real life, our brain is itself a bio-computer so advanced that we don’t yet have the storage capacity to handle a brain on a computer, nor the processing speed to compete with that of a human brain.
My imagination brings more to my life in Second Life than it ever really can in real life, you can’t create a spaceship in real life, hop in and fly off into the distance (yet), and sure as hell not by yourself even when it becomes possible.
I am quite content to keep most of my real life, and my second life separate, various things and times cross over, such as when I have to leave for work, or sleep. Or when I have family coming over. But I can pick and choose when, and who to share these things with, and when asked where I am from, I answer with where my character is from. How old am I? My characters age. If you’re asking for RL information from a roleplay character you’re doing it wrong from the get-go.