Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Real World Grows Distant

Written 9 July, 2007

The Real World Grows Distant

In the eight months since I came to Second Life, my relationships with people in the real world have changed profoundly.

I’ve pretty much lost my best friend because of the time I spend on the grid. I remain close to my other best friend, but she doesn’t call me as often because she knows I’m likely to be on the grid.

When I have lunch with acquaintances, I talk about what I always talked about, but they don’t quite hear me because they know I’m probably talking about something that happened on the grid.

“I went to an art show yesterday, photographs taken by my friend Kat Kurda. They were stunning. I bought three.

“My Sweetie was acting as hostess, greeting everyone and handing out cards and being bubbly and charming. She was brilliant!

“Kat’s show was on the top floor of a Star Trek museum, and a lot of trekkies dropped by.”

I don’t tell them there was a Tribble loose in the room and it was trying to mate with my leg. Or that I crashed twice while diddling with the Client menu, trying to take arty photos.

But I do tell them a couple of the visitors irritated me with their MENSA-like pretensions and I couldn’t resist ribbing them gently—well, maybe not THAT gently, for Kat asked me not to argue with the Trekkies.

I tell them Sweetie and I went sailing and watched movies while Skyping. I tell them about shopping and about flying around in my blimpiquito (about which I will soon blog). I tell them I had to kick a gay German escort off my property because he was a rude boy. I tell them I love to stand on the observation platforms at Pele and listen to the ocean and watch the sun set.

None of it registers.

It’s not real to them because they’re not on the grid.

So after a while I stop talking to them about Second Life. And the conversation quickly runs down because I find I don’t have a lot of other things to say.

I’m a brilliant conversationalist, but the conversation suffers because I can’t really share my life with them, because it sails right over their heads.

And quite frankly, sometimes I would rather be on the grid than on the phone or at lunch with them—especially when they call while a film is screening or Sweetie and I are being intimate or sublimely silly.

I’ve always been a patient person, but lately I find myself irritated at things that waste my time—phone calls from people one talks to because one is too polite not too (I think everyone has a couple of phone pests), holding for the automated help systems of big corporations, attending meetings that don’t seem as important as they once did, and phone calls from strangers who want things I’m not obligated to provide for them. I even let e-mail sit for a day or two before I respond to it.

I was happy to cut loose my phone pests, and a headset has helped with being put on hold. And I’m rearranging my obligations to the not-for-profits with which I work to minimize the time I spend in both telephone and in-person meetings.

Call me addicted. Maybe I am. But I’m merely pleasing myself in ways I never dared to before. I just no longer have the patience and the time for time-wasting people and events.

If that’s bad, it’s bad, but people in the real world are going to have to deal with it. I would rather spend the time with my Sweetie and my friends.

On Saturday, my city held a cookout on the beach near my home. It was a two-minute walk, the evening was pleasant, and there were lots of my neighbors, most of whom I like. But after a hamburger and a hot dog and brief conversations with people I’ve not seen for a while, the air conditioning in my house and my monitor were calling me. I said goodbye rather than wait around for the concert which was to follow.

Before, I would have stayed and listened to the concert—but only because there was nothing better to do. But I said my goodbyes and walked home and logged onto the grid.

I’m sure it was a good concert, but I have 23,000 songs on iTunes and my Sweetie (who blew off her own event) was at Pele, awaiting my return.

There was no contest.


Peter Stindberg said...

Uh-oh. I'm not sure if I should be worried. I talked to NOONE in RL about SL so far. I'm sure none of my friends - not to mention my family - would approve.

Sandi Benelli said...

Wow, this sounds so familar, I can really relate, my biggest mistake was telling my family about sl. They dont approve, and I probably spend more time on the grid then with them.

If my life was so great, I wouldnt be here. I love my second life, met some great people, and some not so great, but its so much more fun and interesting then my real one. If its wrong so be it. It makes me happy and its time I made myself happy instead of everyone else.

I find myself doing the same thing you do, hard to pull myself away from this damn computer and when I do, cant wait to get back to it.

I used to sleep at least 7 to 8 hr. Now Im lucky when I get 3 or 4, yes I'm addicted, I will admit it.

Anonymous said...

I do believe there are SL addicts.

Some are the sweating junkie types who "have to" get on the grid and suck down coffee at 2am while they rant about scoring a better video card and blow off the "meat world" job that would pay for it.

My first close friends in SL was like that and it made my skin crawl once i recognized it. He was struggling mentally in real life and enthralled by a nasty concoction of addictions to which "a twist of SL on the rim, please" was the perfect addition. He's been off the grid now for months and I'm fairly certain has been residing in a mental institution for his own safety.

I've also had friends on the grid who were high functioning addicts.

They appear to be fine but slowly the structure of their lives erode from within. They tend to be aggressively happy in second life.

They proclaim how happy they are to one and all but seem to experience little real pleasure. They "hang" but rarely seem to latch onto any skill set or circle of friends that endures. In a world that has a visual interface but requires constant verbal/written interaction to maintain relationships they are frequently silent. You know in time they will feel the same dissatisfaction in SL as they do in RL.

So do I fall into either of these groups? After experiencing the same weird reactions that we've all have from friends and family I wondered myself; are my hours on the grid good or bad?

After months of deliberation here is my the question I decided I needed to ask myself to come up with an honest answer.

Is my life expanding or contracting?

For me it is expanding.

For most people the metaverse is fun but not miraculous or life altering. For me it has been both. Extreme trauma is hard to recover from. In addition to hard work you need time, financial resources and a good support network. I was limping along with the bare minimum all all the above, for years. I made progress but it was agonizingly slow, and i mean that in the literal sense. Then one day I was able to take the work laptop I traveled with to a free internet cafe and step into whole new world.

I had friends who knew nothing about my past and who were available the same time of day I was. Very real personal safety concerns in RL were temporarily dissipated. I had the chance to travel, socialize, create without the worry of expense, dance without the fear of touch, practice setting personal boundaries and create healthier relationships.

It wasn't all instant and of course I stumbled. But i've been able to build a social network, to express my thoughts and feeling without fear of reprisal often enough to get in the habit of speaking my mind again. I've defined my avatar as i have defined myself... using her to experiment with new ways of being with others.

My personal life RL & SL is slowly but constantly improving. My professional life is expanding SL & RL. My health is improving RL and my sense of adventure as i try to bring my SL persona, which is the essence of me, into line with my RL life.

Over time, because I can comfortably articulate what I gain from SL my friends and family have accepted my SL life as just "one of those quirky things" . A few have even joined me on occasion. Being open about it with them, with reasonable boundaries, helps me to stay balanced too.

I will have adjustments to make along the way, like real life my sl life will have it's ups and downs. At times there will be conflicts but i think i'll be able to resolve them because i will keep asking myself that question.

Is my life is expanding or contracting?

Take care of yourself hon. We'll all be here for you, whatever you need to find your healthiest way of being.

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Thank you all three for your comments!!!

I know, Peter, you spend a lot of time on the grid. I can't imagine how your family hasn't noticed a change in your behavior. I love along, but I'm quite sure that had I not told my friends about SL they would not noticed a significant and perhaps even a profound change in me. It might be a smart move not to tell you friends and family, but take care they don't think something is up with you.

Sandi, I'm so sorry your family is not supportive. I was rejected by my family once for another reason, and it really, really hurts. I can only hope they will one day figure out SL is a positive force in your life.

I'm sorry your RL isn't so great; here's hoping that with our without SL, it improves.


Anonymous, thank you for telling me who you are. I really appreciae that. And what an articular and thoughtful post!

Yes, despite all the scary things inside it (dragons, weapons, griefers, slavery, ageplay), SL is a safe platform through which to expand your RL. I'm so glad for the healing you've been able to do through your time in SL! I only hope it continues and that you become perfectly comfortable in your first life.


My own RL is pretty darn good-- but SL captivates me for a number of reasons.

1. SL engages my creativity.

2. SL engages my sense of humor.

3. SL lets me do things I and no one else in the RW can do, things like fly and teleport and make giant rolls of paper towels.

4. SL lets me meet smart, interesting, educated, computer-literate people from around the world and get to know them, sometimes even in the real world.

5. SL keeps me from becoming bored.

6. SL lets me fulfill my need to shop without spending RL amounts of money. (Spending a couple of thousand Lindens feels the same as a shopping jaunt to New York City!).

And, most importantly:

6. SL has given me something I've not had for a while-- love.

All in all, not a bad thing for a simulation that need not cost me a single penny.

SL is making my real life better, whether my friends realize it or not!

Peter Stindberg said...

I don't spend that much time there actually. I also thought it was more, but then I made a calculation and came to 4-8 hours a week.

Of course my wife has noticed, but - and I feel a bit bad now - she hasn't yet grasped the "true nature" of the game. For her it's just "another video game" as she saw me playing countless ones over the years. Shame on me for not pointing out the differences.

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Peter, is that 4-8 hours a week or 48 hours a week?