What would you do if Second Life disappeared overnight?

Try a thought experiment with me. Imagine, for whatever reason, that you woke up today to find that Second Life had simply ceased. What would you do with your time? What might you return to? What might you try that’s new? How else would you get what you now get from Second Life?

A group of people tried to answer that question last night at the Basilique Chat Salon. Some, as you’d expect, said they’d try alternate virtual worlds. Others said they might resuscitate long neglected hobbies (and possibly relationships) that they had allowed Second Life to distract them from.

Personally, I think this question strikes at the very heart of the specific benefit we get from the time we spend in a virtual world. I found this question challenging; not because a lack of alternatives ways to spend my time, but rather in how I could think of so many.

I used to worry about what I’d do if Second Life disappeared. I haven’t worried about that for over a year now.

Needless to say, I’d miss a lot of things – painfully. Among many other things, I’d miss the friends I’ve made here, I’d miss the weekly chat salons, and I’d miss spending time at Basilique. I’d aim to stay connected with my friends in other ways, but I’d move on from visiting Second Life.

I’d be fine.

A thread I heard at last night’s discussion is that things in Second Life are easier. For some it’s easier to be yourself, easier to be unknown, easier to meet different types of people, easier to socialise, easier to work on one’s issues, easier to relate with people, and easier to escape them.

Maybe Linden Lab should have called it “Easy Life”.

I like easy things too. For example, I like it when forms on websites are easy to complete. I like the ease of getting groceries delivered to my house. I love the ease of contactless payment systems when I use the London transport system. In these things, I don’t for a second miss the more challenging alternatives.

I am honest with myself – when I remember. While I don’t reject “easy things” outright – I can recognise when I’m taking the easy way, especially when I can see that I could be taking a more challenging – and possibly more rewarding – approach to get what I want.

For over a year now, I’ve cut down the time I spend in Second Life. By carefully managing my time, I try to spend 2-4 nights/week completely offline, so I am acutely aware of what I do when I’m not in Second Life.

I know one thing – I would not just jump over to an inferior virtual world (sorry, but I do think they are inferior, or I’d be there instead of Second Life). Project Sansar would attract me, and I would definitely give that a go.

In the meantime, I know that if Second Life were to disappear tomorrow, many aspects of my life offline would change, and most would possibly improve.

Because I love being productive, I’d likely invest more time and energy into my professional life. I’m confident I’d see financial and professional benefits from that added investment, which would probably enable me to find the funds I’d need to entertain myself more offline.

I read a lot of Second Life material – in blogs and discussions I take part in. If Second Life died I’d like to think that I would still read as much as I do today – but I’d likely read more books and quality online magazines about the many other interests that I have.

Second Life offers us ready access to loads of friends that are only an instant message away. That need for connection wouldn’t go anywhere, so if Second Life ceased, I’d make more of an effort to develop my local network. Not online – because for the most part social media bores me rigid – but physically.

One of the best things about virtual worlds is the opportunity they give to meet people you might not easily meet at work or your neighbourhood pub. A virtual world stands in for that ephemeral “third place” between home and work that we – as a species – tend to long for.

People that live in rural or conservative communities genuinely appreciate the diverse types of people they can find online within speaking distance. I live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, so access to as wide a variety of people as I can find in Second Life is not a problem. Without a doubt, it takes more effort, but they’re out there and not too hard to approach.

I’d keep writing as much as I do – which I now estimate is about 40-50,000 words a month when I include my professional writing commitments. I’d stop writing about my experiences in Second Life – of course – and I would focus more on my other personal writing interests. I know I’d find them just as interesting.

I love putting on theatrical performances inworld. If I could no longer do that, I’d likely take up amateur dramatics, and would probably act in community theatre. Artistically, I’d draw more and take more photographs. I’d spend more time going outside: more outings, more theatre, more attractions, and more restaurants and bars. Again, London has everything I could ever want in that respect; my choices spoil me.

People cite virtual travel as a benefit of visiting Second Life. Being on Europe’s doorstep, I’d go on more vacations and travel more. With that – and the more frequent local outings – I’d definitely spend way more money than I now  do for entertainment (and that’s not a positive thing). I also know that I’d get more unstructured exercise – from walking and being out and about more – which would be very beneficial.

Something I’m sure of is that I’d likely not stay up as late as I do, which means I’d get to bed earlier than I do now. As a result, I’d have more sex and I’d get more sleep. Now that I think of it, these two outcomes alone might be enough to make it all worthwhile.

Anyway, this conversation reminds me to keep balancing the time I spend online with everything I want to do offline, so that I can continue to get the best of both experiences.

I shared many of these thoughts at the Salon last night, and someone asked me (as I half-expected they might), that seeing as how I can paint such a pretty alternative picture, why do I spend the time inworld that I do?

It’s a fair question. I will readily admit that when I first joined Second Life, I was in a different – and less abundant – place in my life. I felt socially isolated. Being an expat comes at a social cost, and regardless of how socially fluent one might be, recreating a social network that one has cultivated over decades isn’t something one can easily do in only a few months, or even years.

As I better acclimatised to my life abroad, I found it easier to get my needs met offline. By then, however, I’d invested heavily into this virtual world – both time wise and financially. I see it as a valuable part of my life – and yes, having a wonderful life offline does not prevent one from enjoying Second Life – I’d argue instead that I can enjoy it more so. Nothing I say here should imply that I don’t value my experiences in Second Life, or the relationships I’ve cultivated there. They are as important to me as my offline experiences; in large part because I recognise them as part of my one life, not another life.

More than anything, my recognition of the need for balance arose acutely when my best friend and work partner left Second Life last year. In his aim to redress the lack of balance he felt from spending too much time in Second Life, he ended up quitting cold turkey, and hasn’t logged on since December of last year.

That was one way. It’s legitimate. And it’s common. Unfortunately, this approach has many costs – many of them irrecoverable. I would recommend anyone I care about against that particular approach.

Instead, I chose another route. Like a responsible occupying force, I chose to conduct a measured withdrawal (e.g. 2-4 days a week off) so that I could maintain stability in what I was leaving behind. As a result, I feel I’ve achieved a very healthy level of balance that not only allows me to enjoy the best of what Second Life has to offer, but to also make sure I pursue my offline interests and desires to the degree which they deserve. Since I’ve done this, Basilique, and my own social and creative pursuits have actually become more enjoyable than they were when I was ‘all-in’.

Like a relationship with a person, it’s easy to lose perspective of the world around you when you fully immerse yourself in Second Life. Healthy relationships, with people and interests, should not be obsessive or addictive.

The more you bring into your relationship from your pursuits and interests outside of that relationship, the richer and more long-lasting your relationship will be, because you won’t lose yourself as a result of your involvement. Instead, you bring more of yourself to it, because you are a stronger person outside of it.

I believe that this is a healthy way to approach Second Life. It doesn’t happen by accident though. It happens by dedicating oneself to enriching one’s offline life as much as possible, and choosing to spend time in Second Life because you want to, not because you need to.

C.S. Lewis, who most famously imagined a virtual world of lions and witches in a wardrobe, once eloquently said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” In a world where we so often cling to what we may lose as opposed to what we might gain in the face of that loss, his words are more apropos than ever.

32 thoughts on “What would you do if Second Life disappeared overnight?

  1. Well, i dont feel i could leave the people i know behind the relationships i have developed. When the first rumors of Sansar occurred, i contacted Jessica Lyon of Firestorm and we had a discussion.I made a contingency plan to escape to inworldz and take my family with me setting up an identical identity. The whole purpose of which would be to simply transfer everything to a new world.I still feel that this is a wise preparation and precaution even if i would never use the account. Luckily the need to do this has not appeared and may never appear, but it is there to use if necessary.

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      1. Ans becky, there is no fear to see them gone, cause they are hosted from my computer, since 2011 and, contrary to Inworldz, Open sim grids are open ones, where we can teleport from a gird = a world like Sl , avination, Inworldz, Kitely, to another, like we do teleport froma sim to another in Sl.

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    1. Heh, we used to think banks were too big to fail – until the crisis that saw nearly 500 banks fail since 2008 in the US alone. Some of these banks had hundreds, no wait, billions of US dollars in assets. I’m not saying that Second Life is going anywhere, as you point out, it’s not really as unlikely as some things we might have not imagined.

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  2. After nearly 9 years inworld, most of my best SL friendships have evolved to the point where I connect via outside means. Skype, Facebook and other social media tools would fill the gap. That said, it would be a great loss missing activities we now share in Second Life. I hope there will always be something similar available as technology progresses. Second Life, despite its critics, is a social experiment that has evolved and exceeded the expectations of its developers. There probably will never be anything quite like it again if it goes away.

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    1. I agree, it would be a great loss, and one that we would likely never see the likes of again. I agree also, there will likely be all sorts of things that would take its place, and they’ll more likely be better than worse.

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  3. “Because I love being productive, I’d likely invest more time and energy into my professional life. I’m confident I’d see financial and professional benefits from that added investment, which would probably enable me to find the funds I’d need to entertain myself more offline” We discussed this once, quite a few months ago and I explained how I was only in SL perhaps an hour or so a day these days and how it was incredibly difficult at first, but I’d rediscovered so much abundance in real life I’d never change it back around. I mumbled and bumbled my explanation but you in your gift for words pretty much summed it up 100%. I almost wonder if SL closing it’s doors would be a positive for me, forcing me to cut that last tendril holding me here. As an aside, my one regret is not being inworld when you have these chat’s, I would love to be a part, I think I’d fit right in with your “posse.”

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    1. Oh Cao, you absolutely would! Your thoughtfulness and expressively ability would be so welcome! Perhaps one day we’ll have a weekend edition, with plenty of notice, so others might have a chance to take part 🙂 Thanks as always for your comment!

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  4. There is an interesting thread within a thread I found in this blog that poked me Becky. Initially, as is with others the longer in SL the closer and larger the friend sphere is, so to lose that abruptly (or at all) would be very sad. I am a very private person for many reasons,I guess guarded out of necessity brought on by life lessons is one. As a result I have taken very little of my friendships in SL into RL, so the links would be broken.

    Now the buried thread you touched on is what I call the “SL Slide”. This is something I have seen over the years and is hard to put a finger on. As you put it ( I chose to conduct a measured withdrawal (e.g. 2-4 days a week off) so that I could maintain stability in what I was leaving behind. ) It is most difficult to label the “SL Slide” to this or that reason because it is as individual as the person affected. Is it possible that SL provided the bridge for us to escape from and allowed us over time face the “What was being left behind”? SL is a protected and self-controlled environment that is only an On/Off button from safety.

    This SL Slide I refer to is not, in my mind a bad thing, it is more a sign that one has come to terms what ever was left behind and is ready to move on.

    It’s a strange phenomenon and I find myself walking the same path…..

    Dee♥♥

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    1. You are very perceptive, Dee! I would agree that the “SL Slide” phenomenon is something I too have observed over the years I’ve been in SL, although I’ve not quite characterised it as such. I would also agree that I am always changing, my world is always changing, and because of this I’m never in one specific place with regards to my attachment with Second Life – I ebb and I flow. With that said though, for the past year, I’d say I’m on a gradual ebb.

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      1. Although it may sound corny, as I read your reply this is the first thought to come to my mind. So I’ll leave it with you and let it float………

        Oceans ebb and flow, mostly seen as tides, and look at their strength ♥

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  5. I am down to logging in twice a week for specific events at my on own venue.

    I have emails of all my friends as well as social media connections. I know I will lose contact with many of them, I already miss some of them.

    I dislike Mac and Windows, so with Linux support dropped and non existent in SL2, I know my days are numbered. I am already drifting away 🙂

    If SL closes tomorrow I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I am guessing you have other things in your life that you’ve found can replace what SL once did for you, and with that I wish you all the best of luck in the future 🙂

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      1. I don’t. Oddly. I think I am just starkly aware SL won’t last forever, I won’t be joining my friends in SL2, and on Linux my days on SL are most likely going to come to an end before a lot of folk.

        I can’t see the point in investing more time and energy into a short lived second life if that makes sense?

        My dogs however appreciate the reduction of SL spending as it means more money spent on dog chews and toys for them to destroy. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a thoughtful post and a very interesting discussion yesterday Becky. Due to workmen stomping around in my condo I had to leave abruptly. I think it’s good you have pulled back a bit from SL and I do understand what you might miss by not being a part of what is for you a very large social scene and fulfilling art endeavour. I felt a bit of defensiveness in some during that discussion and it was interesting how some people did touch on balance or lack of.it. Because I left SL voluntarily for a couple of years I don’t fear not having an online virtual world and community anymore. Leaving SL (and not due to a failed romance) was the best thing I could have done for myself at the time. I really moved into other creative directions very quickly. What had inspired me in SL definitely did contribute to what I ended up doing in my first life. Only two people I knew in SL kept in touch with me during that time. The people who really come to your aid in times of need I feel are usually those whom you nurture and know in your first life. I loved visiting other worldly and also sims of places I could not visit but when I was given the opportunity to travel again in First Life I jumped at it and there is just no comparison for me of really being there and soaking it all in with five senses.
    I still love the beauty and art in Second Life and always will, but my perspective has totally changed from the days of my immersion as a role player and an admin of a sim. I have no need for social fulfillment in SL. I just enjoy exploring the arts and creative landscapes. Exchanging ideas and discussion with others is still interesting and fun as well.
    I am not sorry for the experience I have had in Second Life as I created quests and stories at the time which were fulfilling and enjoyable- but I do regret the amount of time spent in fantasy land.
    I no longer have a “need” to log on – or feel an obligation or a social commitment so for me my time there now is both genial and gratifying. However if SL closed tomorrow I wouldn’t panic for lack of what to do with my time and I doubt I would seek another “social” online virtual world.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. For what it’s worth, I think you’ve got a really healthy outlook on it, one that’s clearly borne from experience. Thanks for commenting, as always, I love to read your thoughts 🙂

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      1. Oh I hope so Becky lol! As someone who tends to throw herself into things – sometimes you just ride the storm and it subsides on it’s own!! Thank you for saying so! Your topics are always thought provoking! Here’s to a good life in all worlds!

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  7. I’ve been slowly edging away from the time spent in SL…many friends are gone..on to other endeavors. .elsewhere. who knows. ..people change. .their needs change ..I found SL out of curiosity. ..I stayed because it was fascinating. ..I’m slowly leaving because we are all getting older and grief over the loss of someone is tough enough in RL…I am chicken..I don’t want to experience the grief of losing an SL friend because of too real death…. one day I will close my little SL art gallery (Sergeiana’s Art Gallery)and steal quietly away into the neverafter………

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  8. I”ve spent many hours in SL and love it, but I totally agree there is a need for a healthy RL /SL balance dependent on each individuals first life situation, If SL went away I would be very sad and feel the loss like the loss of a good friend. I would most likely lose some good friends, but my closest I have connected with in other ways and most likely would find another virtual platform to reconnect with them in. I doubt I would use another platform as much though. SL is unique and while it seems everyone has their favorite virtual platform, there are some of us diehard SL fans who have tried others out of curiosity and nothing compares because SL is different and is what works for us. I am curious about Sansar and will try that. One thing I am most certain of though and that is I do believe my first life would improve with the added time, sleep, physical activities, etc. I would however most likely spend more money on shopping and recreations first life, but then again I might work more or have a profitable hobby that would cover that. Even now I know I should probably have a little different balance than I do between worlds for optimal time in both. I completely agree with the things you have said. Interesting thoughts.

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    1. Good morning Kara (my morning at least 🙂 ) and thank you for commenting! As I read it, I can see we’ve had very similar thoughts. I’m guessing that with “Even now I know I should probably have a little different balance than I do between worlds for optimal time in both”, you are saying you feel like you should spend less time in Second Life? I’ve found that planning my off days (typically Tuesdays, Thursdays and most of Saturdays and Sundays) first, and organising activities on those days really helps with that. Whether it’s planning a date, or allocating time just to do another hobby (and putting it into my calendar so I don’t forget to do it), or registering for a class – whether it be exercise or art. Another thing that helps is cooking. If I buy heaps of ingredients for the week, I feel compelled to cook more, and when I do that I find it very easy to spend a lovely evening inside just cooking, and sharing a good meal. As the nights get longer now, I’m planning to take some walks around the neighbourhood too 🙂 Good luck with it!

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    2. Kara I like your reply (you have a lovely blog) and you would be amazed how your life and focus changes. – and yes, your first life will love you for it!! :D. Life is short- carpe diem and all that. I really did some soul searching before I returned ( after being absent for awhile) to SL recently. My perspective of virtual worlds has done a complete turnaround. I totally enjoy virtual art and imagination and the chance to be able to show my own photography (https://desertdreams1001blog.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/de-profundis-2/) which is a tad fanciful- and I enjoy logging in for a visit etc but it seems I can no longer “live” in a virtual world.

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  9. I am part of a Christian Ministry in SecondLife and find it to be important, but not vital. I only log online for 2 hours a day, about 5 days a week. Not having SecondLife would make me a bit sad and would miss the friends I’ve made in SL and sad for the people who need prayer, salvation and other faith based ministering. I have however expanded outside of SL with Skype and Facebook and real life with some of my SL friends. We need reality, which is most important, as SecondLife is what it is… Secondary and not Primary for me.

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  10. I would take the time to get to know more of God and His will for my life and seek to do more for His kingdom, instead of being on SL. Before the Ministry in SL, I was addicted to SL but in other sims and with many other activities that were not edifying to my mind and soul. Now I spend less time there, but the time I do utilize in SL is for the Lord.

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  11. Canary,

    Thank you for a very interesting post… that said, I will ramble now 🙂

    I rather disagree with Lewis’ “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” Take love for instance. Falling in love is something that Second Life (or other virtual/real spaces) allows. It isn’t a safe activity – it is actually probably one of the most risky activities imaginable. Relationships can fall apart, and do, often leaving one bereft. Love can certainly be lost; just as can anything else of emotional or real value. Is the potential loss of happiness, reason in itself not to pursue love? Hardly.

    …obsession/addictive labels in relationship to how one lives one’s own life… Virtual world participants often face the accusation that the time they spend inworld is wasted and detrimental to their real lives; their activity an indication of addicted or obsessive behaviour. Is this accusation any different from saying someone spends too much time at the pub, or at work, or playing football on the weekend? Is not the essence of such an observation that someone (the person/people making the observation) feels undervalued by the life choices of the person being observed? Striving for balance has a long history in ethical thought and is often seen as a healthy choice. But a passionate life, one valuing commitment over balance isn’t necessarily any worse.

    To answer your question, what would I do if Second Life ceased without warning? I would try to maintain contact with those who have most mattered to me in here. Not a simple thing to do, as contact requires a context. Although I’m old enough to remember having pen pals, I’m not sure that relationships based in the instantaneousness of a virtual world translate easily into those formulaic 20th century sequential monologues. So, yes I would seek another virtual world to house and preserve these relationships rather than simply walking away from them.

    I don’t see Second Life as distinct from my Real Life. It is an aspect of it, not distinct from it. I have nothing against enriching offline life per se but I don’t see the offline having any ethical/metaphysical primacy over online life. One makes choices about where one wants to focus and one builds toward them as best one can whether off or on line. The “easy/harder” dichotomy (are easier paths less valuable than harder slogs) plays into this somewhat. I don’t see something that requires more effort as being more rewarding. For instance, to make an offline friend requires much more time and effort than to make an online one – perhaps that speaks to my social awkwardness but I don’t really believe that. It simply is easier to bypass cultural/societal boundaries online than it is in person. Hence arriving at a destination is simpler/faster. Does the ease of journey devalue the result? Not in my eyes.

    Ideally one balances one’s life as one lives it. Sometimes the solutions that we adopt leave us feeling askew in the longer term, much as being in Second Life excessively now seems for you, and in those situations we rebalance just as you consciously now are doing. The solutions we adopt are distinctly personal and while we can draw insight from how others cope in such circumstances, drawing actionable truths from them is much more difficult.

    I agree with you that relationships thrive best when they allow personal development. Maintaining perspective is critical. But I don’t think we should fear losing ourselves by committing ourselves “obsessively” to that which allows us growth… which leads back to the top of this comment once more.

    We live, we love, we suffer, ultimately we die. While I live I will try to live well, regardless of the mistakes I have made and may make in the future. I shan’t seek balance first and foremost, not now at least.

    Speak to me again in 5 years… 🙂

    thank you for your blogging
    Thomas

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  12. Your post was thought provoking.(That is high praise.) I’m one of the people who live in a rural area and SL is my social life. So if SL went away overnight that would be a big problem.

    It is a problem I am dealing with by moving to Kitely. Socially I’ll miss my SL friends but I also want to expand my creativity and SL is too limiting and expensive to do that expansion in.

    All the possible things that may develop with virtual worlds and VR is confusing and unclear.. In my opinion SL will be moribund in five years. Generally the people who are in SL for social reasons will go to Sansar; the technically creative people will move to something like High Fidelity; the designer types (clothes, houses, etc) will follow the market to Sansar; I am not sure where the where artistic creative types will go. I don’t think to Sansar as you said else where on this blog are a lot of restrictions in SL and I think the lab will use most of the same restrictions in Sansar. I believe the population of SL will be like an upside down hockey stick and what is SL without its population.

    My situation leads to Kitely (http://kitely.com) I’ll keep my main SL avatar but I’ll get rid of my land.

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