I’m nowhere near leaving Second Life; far from it. I’m getting so much out of it: practically, creatively, and interpersonally. Like most of us that stay engaged, I consider my time spent in virtual worlds to be a positive and fulfilling augmentation to my life.
We’re all in such different circumstances though.
I can, for example, appreciate how conflicting non-virtual demands on one’s time or energy might make one want to take a break, or even check out entirely. Surely everyone with any experience of how things work in the real world must realise that leaving the virtual world wouldn’t make those real world demands (or their underlying causes) disappear, but it might make it easier to cope. For some, sometimes.
Also, while a great outlet for the things I value so much in my Second Life, I can also appreciate that experiences in world can be so insidiously frustrating, that many people can just get totally fed up.
As an aside, while some people might leave for technical reasons, I tend to think that it’s the emotional reasons that have considerably more influence on our choices in any life. When is the last time you heard someone seriously say… “yeah, my FPS is just so frustratingly slow, it’s enough to leave all my friends behind because… well, I’ve just had it!” or “SSB!?! Screw this, I’m outta here peeps!” I know, I know, things can get so laggy and crashy it can make one want to go back to chat rooms or basic instant messaging. But really, if your tethers to the virtual world are reliant mainly on the technical, well, this post (and this blog for that matter) really isn’t for you.
Technical issues notwithstanding, it’s not as if frustrating emotional experiences are isolated to virtual worlds. Still, I can appreciate how leaving them might afford a temporary relief from an acute pain.
For these reasons above, I’ve seen so many people I’ve interacted with just up and disappear over the past couple of years.
I’m not really talking about the constant revolving door of characters that walk in and out of my clubs. They might stay for a while, we might even have a good chat, and then they might drift away. That’s typical of both non-virtual and in world situations where you interact with the public though – so really, there’s nothing unique about that.
Acquaintances become friends, and friends too, sometimes, will go away. This happens everywhere and it’s part of life. In Second Life, you might see them online here and there, you might even throw them a wave when the mood strikes you – but really, the relationship has ceased to become central to your Second Life.
Then, there are people with whom I might have more meaningful relationships with that will just up and quit from one day to the next. Some might announce their retirement either in world on or on their blog. Others simply fade away without a word.
For the rest of us, that have become accustomed to their presence… well, how can I put this delicately… frankly, it sucks. That’s probably my fault more than theirs, I know I tend to care too much.
Of course, we get over it, sometimes quickly, other times, it takes a bit longer. I suppose it sucks in the same way when a friend you’ve known for a while that lives in the same town as you decides to move to another country or continent. You know you’ll miss that person, because clearly your relationship will, in rare instances either continue as normal, but more commonly go quiet, and sometimes just fade away completely. Still though, you get over it and move on. And of course, I’d never expect someone to stay in world or in my same city just make me feel better – I’ve been slowly becoming accustomed that I’m not the centre of the universe since I was just a bit past two years old, despite the fact that somedays I forget.
I appreciate the reasons, still I find it hard to appreciate anyone leaving without a word. It takes ten seconds (literally) to send an email and say “Hey, I’m ok, I’m just taking a break – see you soon, or never, but I’m ok – so relax and don’t worry. Ta ta forever / for now!”
Leaving a virtual world is a thought-provoking idea though, isn’t it? It does make me think – what would I do, if for whatever reason I did want to someday leave?
My gut instinct tells me I’d do it the same way I might move to another city.
Personally, I would not delete my account, just like I wouldn’t change my name in first life. It’s much too final and I can’t see the advantage in it. Also, I change my mind enough that I would probably regret it down the road. So, if I ever were to “check out”, I’d probably just take a break. I’ve done that in the past. It served a purpose and that was that.
If I did want to take an extended break then, I’d have a massive party, and invite everyone that I cared about – just to say farewell and to let people know where I was going and how long I might be – even if that was indefinite. And for those that didn’t make it, I’d send a note card, put a few words in my profile, and most certainly write a blog post.
I did something like that when I moved from Canada to the UK, and I can’t honestly think of an alternative that would make any more sense to me.
The argument that to take the time to say goodbye properly might possibly get in the way of my decision; well, that doesn’t really convince me. No amount of whining would have made me not relocate to the UK when I did. Similarly, I wouldn’t announce I was about to take a break from Second Life until I was 100% sure I wanted to take that break. The people I care about would appreciate that and not try to make it harder for me. Even if some did make it especially hard to leave, it still wouldn’t change my mind because by that point, I would have already made it up. I wouldn’t be doing this on a whim. It’d be a careful, thought-out and well-considered decision. Emotional for certain, but not a whim.
One thing I know for sure: leaving a place is rarely equal to leaving your problems behind. Micheal Timmins, songwriter for the Cowboy Junky’s summed it up well with:
Escape is so simple
In a world where sunsets can be raced
But distance only looses the knife
The pattern of its scar
Can always be traced
I don’t know really. Maybe I’ll eat my words one day. Who am I to judge what someone else should or shouldn’t do? I’m not them.
Maybe I’ll be so frustrated, so challenged, so overwhelmed, that I might just one day leave without saying goodbye. Maybe. But probably not.