Written 22 May, 2009
Last night I was talking to Ashera Enoch after she read my post about the missing Mystical Cookie. We were discussing people who go missing from the grid and how devastating it can be to those left behind—a devastation that can be immeasurably worsened when those left behind don’t really know what the reason for the absence. Did their friend or lover drop Second Life for another pastime? Is she in the hospital in a coma after running her PT Cruiser into a tree? Did he meet a woman at the local mall and enter a whirlwind romance that left him too exhausted to log on? Did she go on a three-week cruise without telling her friends in Second Life? Is he hiking in the Rockies? Was she kidnapped by MOSSAD? Did his hard drive melt down? Did she move somewhere without a fast internet connection? Is she living in a motel room because her house burned down due to heat from her overworked video card? Did he finally pass away after years of progressive illness? Or did she suddenly drop dead of a brain aneurism? Most of the time, Second Life contacts will never know—and not knowing is a continual pain in the side.
Linden Lab knows our real life contact information, of course (unless we lied about it when signing up, which many people do). All the Lab can do, however, is phone, write, or send IMs and e-mails. They know nothing of the particulars of the lives of their members—nor should they.
When one of the human behind the avatar Ginny Talamasca (there were two) died, the other stepped forward to tell Second Lifers what had happened. Some have called Ginny’s death a scam, but at least we knew SOMETHING. All too often, however, Second Life disappearances are like Mystical Cookie’s—no one, including Linden Lab, knows ANYTHING.
And so, I have a suggestion: A buddy system. Tell someone you trust who you are and give them your contact information—or send them an e-mail with an attachment and ask them not to open it unless and until you have disappeared from the grid without warning. The attachment should contain enough information to let them contact you—an e-mail address, a phone number, perhaps, and the name and contact info for a real-life friend with whom they can get I touch to find out what has happened to you. If they trust you, perhaps they will reciprocate. And I reiterate—tell someone you really TRUST. I’m not talking about someone who you’ve known for two weeks.
If I were to disappear from the grid tomorrow, Sweetie would be able to field questions from my friends and Whimsy landowners and renters. She has my name, address, e-mail, and phone numbers—and she will soon have the name and contact information for a friend who lives close by and the police station a block from my house.
Sweetie is of course anonymous and mysterious—but my friends all know her real identity. They would be able to contact her for information about me. And likewise, should she disappear, her friends would be able to contact me to learn what happened.
So, please consider using the buddy system, or at least make arrangements to get word to your friends if something should goddess-forbid happen to you.