So, I’ve been exploring the addictive world of Second Life more lately. I’m fascinated by the way people behave there (being a near-psychologist, that’s probably not too surprising :), and with the idea of the avatar-based world. Some people seem to approach the whole thing like a game, and others take it very seriously. It reminds me, in a way, of the simulated-world games we “play” in social psychology, to illustrate how psychological principles apply, even when we know we’re consciously playing a game. I also think that the idea of a whole new world to explore, with the probability of meeting people all over the globe, is exciting. It’s fun to talk to someone I know that I will never, in all likelihood, never see in person. The mystery is, how much of what I hear is real and how much is made up? My guess: Made up is about 95-99%.

Let’s start with the avatar – how many people will really make their avatar look like themselves? Well, if you’re over 6 feet tall, handsome/beautiful, with a figure to die for you’ll probably go ahead be representative. If you’re like me…well, no way in hell. Why make myself look fat and old when I can look twenty and sexy as all get out? Hmmmm…. So, most of the “people” I see look like supermodels, and the women have exaggerated…uh, “assets.” Next question: Why do this? Well, for one, we all like to look and feel good. And, even in a virtual environment, who is going to seek out the less-than-ideal looking? Unfortunately, even in virtual reality, “good personality” doesn’t count for much. So, I could be the nicest, sweetest person on earth, and if I don’t look good, not too many people will talk with me. People are the same all over, I guess.  And yet the funny thing is, because EVERYONE pretty much looks gorgeous, personality is really all you have!

And quite frankly, as you’ve read in my other posts, I get enough crap for being fat in real life. I accept myself there and love myself – AND I like playing around with the avatar. She’s like a virtual Barbie doll that I can dress in things I’d never be able to afford in real life. She’ll never look like she needs plastic surgery, she can eat whatever she wants and not worry about it going to her thighs or butt…she’s pretty cool, when you think about it.

Next…I realize that sex is cool, and feels good…but puh-leeze! Second Life is saturated with it. You can’t find a non-sexy outfit, and everywhere you go, erotic images are there to greet you. Even in the PG-rated areas, people wear tight, revealing clothes. The residents, especially the guys (or avatars seeming to be male, to be fair) seem to want it 24-7. Besides shopping, exploring new areas, and chatting, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do besides find sex. And it’s not difficult to find – even when you don’t want it.

People are generally nice and helpful – when they’re not propositioning you. That’s the really nice thing about SL – meeting and talking with people all over the world. I’ve met and gotten to know (at least as far as you can in a world where nothing is real) people from Britain, Australia, the Czech Republic, and Germany. I’ve found that our reputation as a nation definitely needs work.

Interesting debates I’ve encountered: 1) How do you know when to trust someone you’ve been talking with? Should you at all? 2) How do you know you’re with a real male/female? 3) Is it cheating if you have sex with another avatar, if you’re partnered in real life? 4) How real is this place, anyway? People make a living selling “objects,” “clothing,” and other supplies – there is a real, monetary-based economy.

So, with these philosophical issues to think about, good night and good luck…