09 January 2007


I went online for a few minutes last night and ended up talking one of my friends thru the classic SL love scenario. You know, the one where they start to fall for someone, learn that the person behind the avatar isn't the same gender as their avatar, and flip out? Yeah.

The pain was real. And complicated. Confusion about feeling tricked and betrayed by an honest disclosure, questioning the reality of the relationship, questions about self-identity, questions about why they're reaching out to people this way.

I don't expect people to be like their avatar. There just aren't that many muscle-bound hunks, Pamela Anderson clones, or anthropomorphic bunnies in the real world. I don't even vaguely look like a two foot tall blue hedgehog. But I can see how someone might identify strongly with their avatar. And I know how easily we assume that the people around us hold the same beliefs and assumptions we do, bringing us a lot of pain.

I compare SL to a mirror or a strange sort of dreamtime. Things happen there with speed and jarring intensity. Patterns that we repeat in our normal lives over months happen in days here. So much of what happens there is clearly based on our choices... hard to blame your gender or age or weight or color or accent for anything here. What we see of ourselves and those around us isn't always easy to accept.

Collaboration and meeting new people are great, the opportunities to create and learn new skills are too. But I think that mirroring is the most valuable trait of a virtual world like SL - we see those sharp-edged reflections, and every now and then we learn and grow from them.

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