Second Life: A lonely place? Or an escape from loneliness?

According to a poll by BBC London, more than a quarter of Londoners say they feel lonely often or all of the time. And this proportion gets bigger, the older people get. Mark Twain called New York “a splendid desert – a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race.”

And it’s not just urban dwellers that face the challenge of feeling lonely. People living in rural areas have a unique set of circumstances that can exacerbate social loneliness, especially among older people.

Mental health workers suggest that it is “not a big step to go from feeling persistently lonely to having clinical depression. There is a danger of “‘social loneliness’, where a person feels disconnected from their family, friends and community, combining with ’emotional loneliness’ where people feel they are in a dark and empty place” despite how many people might live or work nearby.

To escape the socially fragmented world in which we live today, many people turn to Second Life, to meet and socialise with people all over the world, from the comfort of wherever we might be – deep in the undergrowth of an overcrowded urban jungle, or a lone speck of humanity in an ocean of vastness with only the sound of the wind against the trees for a neighbour.

Yet, if you’ve been in Second Life for any length of time, you know from both intuition and daily observation that many people spend much of their time alone. And as happens in the non-virtual world in which our bodies live, sheer numbers are no antidote to this digital anomie either.

In many ways, Second Life is a like a great big city, and can often feel similarly isolating, even cold-hearted, in its emotional desolation. In other ways, its like the rural outback, where we might visit stunningly beautiful locations; the one green dot for as far as the eye can see on the mini map.

The other day I was dancing in a crowded club and received a notecard that said:

Have you spent time in a club or store hoping desperately that someone would chat to you? Have you longed to go clubbing but have no one to go with? Are you or do you want to be sexy and stylish? Do you want to be able to chat to friends no matter what time of day it is? Do you enjoy shopping, chatting or dancing? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to flash mob a club? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then MSM (Mini Skirt Mafia) is for you!

It turns out MSM is a network of over 400 girls that attend regular dance events, enjoy a lot of friendly group chat, go clubbing together, and flash mob.

The irony is that many of us have discovered the fact that Second Life can be a very lonely place, even for those of us aiming to escape the loneliness in our day-to-day lives.

So what is Second Life for you? A lonely place? Or an escape from loneliness? Or is it neither? Maybe you can’t relate to how anyone could consider this big, crowded, ever-changing world of ours to be lonely?

Whatever your perspective, join us this Wednesday at 1PM SLT at the Basilique Club, where I’ll be hosting an open chat to share our experiences with this issue. If you can’t make it, please answer the question below, and I might share it with the group that turns up.

Hopefully see you there!

25 thoughts on “Second Life: A lonely place? Or an escape from loneliness?

  1. I haven’t visited SL for almost three months now because it had become a very lonely place for me. The few friends I still saw became insistent that I do things they wanted to do (mostly boat racing), and after I while I gave up on that. I’ve walked away from SL before and always came back, but this time I don’t feel any need to return–I can be alone here in real life, and not have to worry about a computer upgrade. 🙂

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    1. That’s a bit of a bummer, but I guess if you don’t feel the need, then the shine has really worn off. For years now, my view has been that if I don’t coordinate my own activities, then my chances of doing what I want most of the time are slim.

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      1. A lot of what’s happened with me has been with my friends vanishing, and when that happens it’s really hard to find new ones and move on from there. I’ll probably go back one of these days, but more and more I’m finding less of a reason to head to SL, mostly because standing around looking for something to happen isn’t as exciting as it once was.

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    1. Yes, most places are terribly empty. Maybe there are just too many places and not enough residents? After all, I hear there are 30,000 sims, and what’s concurrency these days… about 40,000? That’s 1.25 person per sim… no wonder it feels empty! One of the many challenges we have, is that like in RL, very few places have massive concentrations of visitors, while others are barren. Guess, there’s not much that can be done until search is influenced by more than just traffic.

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  2. To be honest, I used to find SL extremely lonely, but then I started blogging, and I got to a point where I prefer that no one talk to me or prefer not to socialize, until I met my SL family. Now I do feel part of a something, but they give my enough space to have me time and blog. I honestly find that I social more outside of SL (Facebook/Wordpress/Plurk) with SL people than actually inworld.

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    1. That’s super interesting! Yes, I’ve known many people have found great company in Second Life families. I’ve heard there is lots of going-ons on Plurk, though have never actively used it. Apart from Second Life, it’s WordPress and to a much lesser extent Twitter. Still, I do the vast majority of my socialising inworld. I love the extra bit provided by social media though 🙂

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  3. I think this is a great idea for lots of people. I used to feel lonely on occasion when I first arrived in SL years ago. But not anymore. I’m sure part of the reason for that is that some of my SL friends are also RL friends. But even if that were not true, I have joined a few groups that do things together (modeling, dancing, etc.) and have been in their company for several years now. Also, I have two Facebooks – one for RL and one for SL. And this is from someone who does not consider herself to be very social! Lately I have been enjoying the company of a wonderful group of people at a wonderful club called Electric Monocle (there is a website with the same name, if interested). I enjoy the people who are attracted to the electro-swing music, and there’s a theme every Thursday night, so it adds another element of fun if you choose to dress up for it. Thank you for your awesome blog, you do everyone a great service! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Dax. Yeah, regularly scheduled events inworld go far towards creating the sense of companionship and togetherness, and I’m hoping this event becomes a bit like that. I’ve had very little experience mixing RL and SL friendships, did you meet your friends in SL first and meet in RL, or did you know them in RL then meet up in SL?

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      1. Yes, definitely, regularly scheduled events are very important. I actually keep SL events on my RL calendar and have asked my husband to check it before making plans. Part of the reason for this (and this will answer your question), is that one of my SL friends is also a RL family member who lives in another state. And SL is one of the best, inexpensive and most entertaining ways we can stay in touch and have fun together on a regular basis. On the other hand, I have also made new friends in SL that have become friends in RL. One of them is in Europe, and a few more are in the U.S. We haven’t met in person, yet, but I fully expect we will do so.

        I was pondering on the feeling of “emptiness”. It seems I equate that feeling with a lack of meaning in my life. I am the kind of person who enjoys having some deeper purpose for most of the things I do. If I don’t have that, then I feel “lost” or “empty”. This “purpose” is very subjective and could be anything from gathering information for my daughter to saving the world. LOL! Consequently, I seek out opportunities that provide “meaning” for me. One of the most rewarding things I do in SL is model for a group that raises funds for charity (Models Giving Back). And though we don’t raise tons of money, it is very satisfying for me on many levels.

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  4. I look forward to hearing the perspectives that come out of this conversation. I’ve got the same feelings as expressed above.. to me it has become a bit empty. I never felt lonely or was it an escape from loneliness — more like a place to socialize and relax from the real life responsibilities without leaving your house.

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    1. Personally, I have experienced loneliness at times. I know, however, that I can cure that in a nano-second by simply reaching out to friends on my list. I think for me, however, it’s not about quantity of communication, but rather the quality that I crave. As in real life, I can count the number of people I can have genuinely meaningful conversations with on my two hands, and they’re not always the ones online.

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      1. Oh I think we all do from time to time experience those times of loneliness. It isn’t a bad thing, it’s just learning to channel it properly. I am always surrounded by family and even in those times I have those feelings of loneliness. I just remind myself its a moment brought on by whatever circumstances are surrounding my life at that moment in time. I also totally agree with you about quality over quantity. I have never been one for inane conversations, much preferring to have in depth conversations.

        If my meetings end early tomorrow I just might join in on the conversations.

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  5. I can’t say “yes” to either, but you have made me think. For 5 1/2 years I was on here almost every night for at least an hour and missing few. We partied, danced, explored and created and never being more than 4 close knit SL friends. Being just “silly” was another pass time.

    For the past year the close group became 3 and now we meet once a week maybe twice. Am I lonely … hell no. Still on almost every night (just before bed for me) but creating more clothes now and cars and motorcycles. Some thing new to do or see every day. I still have friends to chat with in IM or not, and I do that often. So no it’s not lonely in SL for me.

    RL, no definitely not lonely.

    Answer from me is “No to both questions” ♥

    Dee

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    1. Yes, I can relate to this, Dee. I love to create and explore and, sometimes, being left alone to do these things is like heaven. Alone or not, I am never bored, that’s for sure.

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  6. Can’t seem to open your blog :((

    On 28 February 2015 at 04:03, Canary Beck wrote:

    > kolektory Słoneczne commented: “Jakob Jelling is the founder of which > focuses on solar energy. In sum, prices are taking place whereas > effectivity is rising for this various gas technology. Solar energy is > renewable and has the advantage because the permanence of the day the only > m”

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