Do we appear the same or similar to our Second Life avatars?

Yesterday I shared some sobering statistics related to the how appearance affects our job prospects, income, and therefore lifestyles, in the non-virtual world.

After a little digging for appearance statistics in the virtual world, I came across a 2007 study initiated by the US Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee and conducted by Zogby International that asked 3,585 adults questions relating to attitudes to technology.

The question resulting in the chart above was:

Some people are now participating in virtual worlds such as Second Life. Let’s say you’re creating a virtual you in the virtual world. Would you dramatically alter the avatar’s physical appearance from your own?

In the blue and orange segments, we have what we might refer to as “Augmentalists” – or people who view their avatar as an extension of their real world persona. In the yellow segment, we have what we might refer to as “Immersionists”, people who view their virtual world presence as mutually exclusive from the non-virtual world. Augmentalists customise their avatar to resemble their real world appearance, whereas immersionists might change any aspect of their appearance, take on new personas, or even change their gender or ethnicity.

On this basis, people interpreting this research might conclude that most virtual world residents are keen to model their avatars to mirror themselves.

Looking at this chart, something doesn’t really square, does it? If people’s intentions of what they said they would do translated into what they actually did, then it suggests that Second Life attracts a considerably higher proportion of hyper-attractive people, doesn’t it? Unless I’m reading this wrong, this chart would suggest that at least 6/10 of us are actually perfect super-models in the non-virtual world too! Do beautiful people just happen to love Second Life? Or, are we saying one thing while doing another?

Tell me, in this anonymous poll…

Join me to discuss this topic at the Basilique Salon, Wednesday at 1PM in Second Life. If you can’t make it at that time inworld, then leave your views below and I’ll try to share them during the session.

8 thoughts on “Do we appear the same or similar to our Second Life avatars?

  1. I tend to change my avatar around a lot, but only because I am a blogger. When I didn’t blog regularly, I kept Berry looking similar to what I looked like in the real world, but just a better looking version, prettier, curvier, etc… I think SL helps us improve what we see as faults in ourselves in the real world so that makes a lot of SL residents aim for what they perceive as perfection here.


    1. Yes, we do lean towards idealised presentation here. I suppose it does give people a sense of what their lives would be like if they were able to address their faults. Whether it makes any real difference in the long run is yet another question entirely.


  2. I hesitated to respond to the poll, not because I felt any discomfort with it, but because I was at a bit of a loss regarding how to answer it; my main form differs radically from my RL appearance, although the underlying shape is a very close facsimile of what I look like in RL. My more “mainstream” appearance, on the other hand, is very close to what I look like in RL, and the reasons for it are (i) laziness on my part – I eventually got tired of coming up with new shapes, (ii) it just felt more natural.


    1. Yeah, I anticipated the fact that many people use several looks, which is the nature of SL. I suppose it depends on who you think your “primary” avatar is. Another interesting question for you! If you could only choose one avatar look for your Second Life, which one would it be?


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