The other night a friend asked me “What are the best places in Second Life to meet new people?” After tossing some ideas back and forth, I realised that I didn’t really know the answer. Puzzled as to why, I decided to do a little research.
My gut response was, come and sit with me and meet the friends I’m with now! After all, most friends are made through other friends, right? But, there was something that felt unsatisfactory about that answer. Was that how I’d found my friends in Second Life: through personal introductions? Was it from meeting people through my projects? Or was it from wandering the grid? I wasn’t sure.
Not content to leave this particular stone unturned, I decided that I’d find the most correct answer (for me at least) in my contact list. If I could just find where I’d met my friends, then I might be able to arrive at a good answer as to where in Second Life was the best place to meet people who turned out to be friends. Knowing my friend well, I knew she was keen to meet new friends, not people for one-time social chit-chat. So, I figured the answers hidden in my contact list might work for her as well.
Well, happy holidays – I’ve got some spare time! I made a spreadsheet listing all my friends and categorised them by where I’d met them, whether they were introduced to me or not, and other interesting facts about them. Surprised by the results, I pivoted the data a few different ways to see if I could refine my answer further.
Being highly involved in a busy home location helps
It turns out, I met (meaning when I first engaged in meaningful conversation) nearly 40% of the people on my contact list at my region, the Basilique, or the parcel I rented for my club (that is no longer in operation) The Kamasutra Gentleman’s Club.
There could be several reasons for this. First, since opening the region in January 2013, I have spent most of time at Basilique (which gives me the idea of doing a time study!), so it’s likely that I’d meet most of my contacts there. We were on the Destination Guide for at least a year so it receives a lot of visitors. Second, I am involved in several projects that involve people to work with, and people who visit to enjoy the things I create, including the sim itself, my plays, and the social events and chat salons I host. Third, some of the reasons above also apply to the Kamasutra, that I ran for 9 months before opening Basilique.
When I calculated how many of the people I’d met at my home locations were through existing contacts (friends of friends), the percentage was only 19.6% (and this was the group with the highest proportion of friend to friend introductions). So, it looks like I’m not at all right in the belief that I meet people in Second Life the way I meet them in the physical world.
Another interesting finding here was that 28.3% of the contacts I’d met at home are of the opposite sex.
I was pleased to see that many of my contacts came from blogging. I love meeting fellow Second Life bloggers inworld, and many have become close friends. I think there is something about blogging that helps one become more familiar with someone before becoming friends with them inworld, which is probably one of the reasons bloggers account for many of my closer friends (see below)
It turns out, that only 8.3% of the contacts I’ve made blogging are of the opposite sex.
Group chat and random IMs
Two things that don’t result in many contacts are unsolicited IMs (either from me or to me) and meeting people through Group Chat. I get about 1-2 unsolicited IMs from strangers a day (usually visitors to my region or people finding me through search). I don’t often take part in group chats, but I have met a few of contacts that way, few of which I’d consider closer friends. Neither of these approaches seem to be very effective.
Spending time alone in a limited number of other locations helps
Interestingly, despite spending most of my time in at Basilique, I’ve met nearly as many of my contacts in other regions. I decided to break down this group further and found the following segmentation:
I’ve worked at two places in Second Life (a table dance club and a dancer’s school – both have ceased to exist), apart from my own businesses. In these places I worked: I tended bar, was a dancer, acted as an officer and a manager of a staff of over 100, and, interacted with a group of nearly 2000 group members, and taught over 100 women to stage individual dance routines in SL. Clearly, I met a lot of people. Despite this time in my life being limited to about 6 months, now almost 3 years ago, I still have a good proportion of the people I met there as contacts on my list (some were customers and some were co-workers).
I tend to split my social club visits among well-designed adult social clubs on the grid, having friends I met at Creamy’s Spot, Sonata Jazz, Amouresque (when it existed), the Sable, and Teqi’s. While one might superficially interact with many people at these places, I’m surprised to have made some pretty good friends there. Still, I’ve visited hundreds of regions whilst in Second Life, and have only met people in the above places that are still on my contact list. This doesn’t mean these places are better to meet others, but rather that I probably spent most of my off-home time there.
I don’t go to a lot of beaches in Second Life, but I like places like Lupes to relax and wind down. It’s a naturist region, and I’ve met quite nice people there, just sitting on the beaches. Some of the contacts I’ve met through either producing plays or sourcing components for the region have also become longer term contacts. Interestingly again, very few of my contacts have arisen through friendly introductions, and only one from watching a dance performance, which is something else I enjoy doing in Second Life from time to time.
After pivoting the data on the basis of whether I met these people alone or when I was in a group of 2 or more others, I found that I met 82% of my contacts when I was not in a friend group of 2 or more people.
Further, I found that only 6.8% of these contacts had been introduced to me by other friends, and that 52% were the opposite sex. This proportion of men was considerably higher than the proportion of men I’d met at home (probably due to almost always being in a group at home). It was also much higher than those I’d met through blogging – most likely because I believe are way more female SL bloggers than male SL bloggers. Not surprisingly, 100% of the contacts I’ve made through group chat and unsolicited IMs are of the opposite sex.
Where I met my close friends
As I wrote about before, I consider a subset of my contacts close friends (it turns out that this proportion is just above 11%). I did the same analysis on my close friends (people that I trust more closely), to see if there were any differences, and this is what I found:
It came as a surprise to me that I met most (37.5%) of the people I’d consider close friends at someone else’s region (remember, this includes people I met over 3 years ago). Blogging, again, contributes a good proportion of my close friends. Another small proportion are friends I know from RL, that I’ve recruited into Second Life. Their stick-with-it-ness varies, but they remain my close friends nevertheless. Very surprising, some of the contacts I’ve met through group chat have become close friends – this is something I never expected, and is probably due more to sheer luck than much else.
Of my close friends, 31% are of the opposite sex, with no significant differences found based on where I met them.
Based on my experience, I’d answer my friend’s question differently today than I did the other night. I’d now advise:
- Invest a reasonable proportion of your time around one or two primary locations. You don’t need to own it or make money there, but you should probably have a public role that gives you an excuse to meet a lot of people in a relatively short time. As I’ve said before, meeting good friends is often a result of effective sorting after meeting many people, not isolating oneself within a tight clique.
- Make the effort to travel out of your normal haunt, and try to visit your favourites often – and ideally, alone. I met many contacts and close friends doing just that. As in the physical world, visiting other places as a couple or in a group reduces both your interest in meeting others and other’s interest in meeting you. Limit yourself to a few regions so that you can give people a chance to see you more than once. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and this applies to friends and contacts as well.
- Write a blog, and extend invitations to meet fellow bloggers inworld. I met many of my close friends that way. Writing a blog is a significant commitment and one would unlikely undertake it just to meet new friends, but I do consider it a great fringe-benefit.
- Invest time on same-sex friends if you’re a woman, and very likely female friends you are a man. Whilst friends from either sex can become close, friends of the same-sex are more likely to become close friends, at least if you are a woman. I’d venture to say that most men find that more of their close friends are women too, and should then invest more time with women too if they want a better chance of developing close friendships. This advice, of course, is only based on subjective hearsay from my male friends.
Further study is needed
I am sure my experiences differ from others in Second Life, but that does not necessarily invalidate the merit of my advice. I am a sample of one, and so can’t be considered the norm until further study can be done – which would be a cool thing to do!
I would love to know how you find contacts and close friends in Second Life. Tell me in the comments, where did you meet your closest friends? Does your experience align with mine? Or is it different?