We began the conversation by watching Gary Turk’s video: Look Up. The question was, “Should we look up from Second Life?”
A Question of Balance?
“Maybe it is a question of balance,” started Connie: “I think (SL) is a useful tool to be in contact with people, but it should not replace face to face contact. There is too much joy in that. For me, SL is not a mainly social experience for me. I do a lot (of) things on my own: exploring, creating home, going shopping, things like that which I really enjoy. Does SL stop me from being social in RL? Well, SL does not but I choose to spend much of my time on my own. That is my choice. That is my opinion. Keep a good balance if possible.”
“She has a good point…” noted Desyreme, “don’t spend your life on the PC… go out into the real world and use this for entertainment on like the rainy days.”
“It is all about personal balance and finding happiness / satisfaction in that I choose to be in SL,” disagreed Caitlin, “even on sunny days, when I feel like it… and yes, I go out too, I think I find balance.”
Balance comes up a lot in our discussions, and it’s been on my mind a lot lately too. In so many ways, our Second Lives are a reflection of our first, yet in so many other ways, distorted and ever-changing. I wondered about the question of balance between these reflections of ourselves, and whether it is possible at all.
“Do you ever think that by being in here, we are possibly turning our backs on opportunities out there, that might possibly be more valuable?” I asked.
“Of course we are,” declared Desyreme.
“I haven’t, or at least have not been aware.” said Caitlin.
“Maybe being in here we avoid being greatly disappointed. That is another way of seeing it.” said Connie.
“I don’t find offline life so deeply satisfying or profound,” said Kay, “It’s just another part of existence.”
Considering that, I brought the conversation back to Desyreme’s earlier comment: “Des, may I ask what opportunities you might think we’re missing?”
“To meet new people in RL, to open ourselves to new real experiences,” answered Desyreme.
New people in RL. And why might that be so attractive?
Connie said: “You will not fall in love and have a family unless you log off.”
As you’d expect, many disagreed with that comment, some openly, some perhaps more quietly. Falling in love in Second Life is hardly new, with many typists successfully progressing their relationships into real life partnerships. Still, the notion that there is something better “out there” than there is “in here” became a theme that would arise throughout the evening.
Is it all just technophobia?
“(It’s) a bit of a deja vu thing, really,” started Tura, “What he’s saying there, people said of email. And before then, of telephones (the old sort). Some ancient Greek probably said the same about written letters. SL is another way of bringing people together, not another way of keeping them apart. The chap texting on his phone is talking to a real person, the bystander just can’t see them. Although having said that, I don’t really do the whole social thing all that much myself, RL or SL. For me, SL is for exploring and making things, and the social stuff happens by the way, as in RL. So, there are lots of things I do, and SL is one of the ones that get some of my time. As for squeezing out RL, it’s up the individual to manage their priorities. I came here today after an RL drumming practice session, so there’s time to do all sorts of things.”
“On the flip side,” I countered, “do you think there is a bit of truth in the idea that we are becoming less connected in a qualitative way, as a result of increasing the quantity and reach?”
“I think I am more connected nowadays,” disagreed Caitlin, “with other people, thanks to SL and other media online. Yeah, skype, whatsapp, facebook and twitter…makes me stay in touch with my Dad for instance, more than before all that, due to RL distance.”
Kay agreed: “I think we still have good qualitative connections, but we have expanded the next tiers down. I chat with coworkers and friends I lost track of for 20 years before Facebook, but I still am closer to the group that never left my side (virtually or not).”
If you can’t fight it… join it?
Caitlin’s contribution was in the form of a video rebuttal: “The video we are discussing is well made, no doubt, but short sighted and one sided. A bit of a meh…for me, as a professional ahem…social media expert. In RL, I give speeches, presentations and whatnot, to ‘old skool’ management, on the importance of social media and why it will not go away and why they should embrace it. I usually start my presentations with a video clip I would like to share now, it is 4 mins, and okay, SL is not mentioned but…SL is also in some sort an online social media platform.”
“I see it as a counter vid on the one we are discussing,” said Caitlin. “Anyway, the point of the vid in this convo…is: the shift in the way we communicate, it makes clear…we cannot pretend online life isnt important.”
“Ok,” I said, “that video raises two questions for me: it undeniably demonstrates the popularity of social media. But, is something necessarily good because it’s popular?”
“I am not judging or saying online is necessary,” replied Caitlin, “but it is a fact… it will not go away. It is up to each individual to find personal balance of course (and yes, the vid is catering to professionals and companies, but it shows there is online life).”
“I would agree with that,” I said, “So we should just embrace it anyway? My other question is – it seems to me that social media began as a promise to communicate between people, but wouldn’t you agree that it is now more of a tool for businesses to engage with us as consumers?”
“I think it happened as a real social thing and then… the rest of the world hopped in, and we cannot stop that? I am not saying or promoting online is better….I just think, we need to find the best of both worlds.”
Are we hiding from real life?
“Communication seems to be the key word here, started Desyreme. “I love the ease of communication with our modern technology, it’s great no doubt. But virtual worlds goes beyond mere communication. I think we as a society are losing our ability to on a face to face level interact with one another. It seems these days we can’t have a gathering of a large number of people without violence. We have forgotten how to behave like humans around one another.
“It’s easy to sit behind a screen and be whatever we want to be, but in RL people can much easier see us for what we really are. It’s easy to hide in a virtual world and be what you wish you were RL… it goes way beyond mere communication. There are some who have met the loves of their lives here… but not many… SL has precipitated many more break ups in RL than it has created Romeo and Juliets. We need to know when to get off the internet and get into RL .. many of us don’t know how to do that. So in my final thought… we don’t concentrate on virtual worlds as simply being a means of communication but often they are an escape from dealing in RL…”
“So Des,” I replied, “what do you think makes us unable to control it?”
“I guess the ultimate point…” she answered, “it’s gone far beyond a communication tool… we have become complacent and lazy towards RL. it’s like a drug … it’s addicting.”
Everyone says… balance.. balance…Yes, we’d discussed the addictive nature of Second Life before… then I asked “is SL more addictive than RL?”
“As are drugs, Becky. Many, many people have walked away only to come right back.” replied Desyreme.
“As my grandma used to say: everything with ‘too’…is not good” chimed in Caitlin.
Harvey chuckled… “I can’t live without RL.”
Desyreme nodded at Harvey, “We need a big red X in the corner of RL.”
I remembered: “Something I raised at another session was how people say they would prioritise RL over SL, if it came right down to it. But every day we engage in SL we are saying no to RL. We are prioritising.”
This post is part 1 of a series of posts in response to Gary Turk’s video, with excerpts taken from our most recent Basilique Chat Salon. Another post, continuing the same discussion, with follow soon.