Thursday, September 20, 2007

Poetic Interlude

While the next blog is percolating, I thought I'd share something my typist wrote a long time ago:


Whenever I hear sounds

that make my stomach


I think of him…

With his hands skittling

Like water on a hot griddle

Over the strings…

A metaphor

Which would probably

electrocute him

if he knew

I thought it.

© 1977 Roisin's Typist

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On Tiptoes Along the Balance Beam

There are probably as many reasons for ‘living’ in Second Life as there are residents. Some come for creative opportunity, others to try to make a buck. Henrik Bennetsen has boiled down SL residents into four basic Archetypes; most of us seem to fit into some combination of these. Although I have some creative aspirations, I am mainly a Socializer with a smattering of Philosopher (hence the blog). My friends in SL are the most valuable part of being there; all the cute virtual shoes and Juke Joints in the world wouldn’t make up for losing my closest in-world friends if they disappeared.

That said, SL friendships are different from Real Life friendships, right? With a few exceptions, we don’t know what our SL friends really look like, whether they make eye contact, or if they have bad breath or annoying tics. Ideally those things shouldn’t matter; after all, we’ve made what feels like a real connection based primarily on our words and minds. We know the sexy avatars we’ve made are idealized, even if some people have attempted to make their avis look as much like their RL selves as possible. Would we be friends in RL if we met? Would the sexual attractions we feel still exist?

Speaking of romantic attractions, I hadn’t planned on having any. My first six weeks or so in SL I was adamantly platonic, to the point of stating it in my profile in hopes of discouraging a few overly persistent suitors. If you had told me in June that by now I would have had romantic encounters with three different men I’d have thought you were several cards short of a full deck.

I’m not alone on that path, either; several friends who initially did not come to SL in search of love have found themselves in full blown SL relationships, with all the attendant longing, excitement, laughter, arguments, pain, lust, guilt, and jealousy. Even those of us who are happy with our RL partners find ourselves immersed in infatuation with someone in SL who shares our interests or seems to understand us in a way our RL partners don’t.

Of course, if two people who meet in SL are single in RL, there’s no reason, once they’ve established some trust, to keep the relationship strictly in SL. But what if both parties have RL partners? What if only one of them is partnered in RL?

My first such liaison in SL was with a man who is single in RL, and desperately wanted to find someone to share his life. He was dismayed to learn that I am married in RL. Any mention of my RL partner sent “Adam” into a funk. On good days, he talked of meeting in RL, despite the 2600 miles between our respective homes (not to mention my marital status). It was turbulent and frustrating, and not what I came to SL for.

The dissolution of that relationship, discussions with friends, and the evolution of a very special friendship with a man I’ll call Sparky (who is also married in RL) have led me to a short set of guidelines for SL relationships, not only for happiness within SL, but especially for balancing SL romantic relationships with RL.

First, both parties should be either single or partnered. If one person is single, he or she is far too likely to want to connect with the SL partner in RL. When both parties come from the same RL status, they are closer to equal footing as to the line between RL and SL.

Second, both parties should be in agreement as to how much time they can spend in SL and how much of that time is together. Adam had an SL girlfriend with whom he ‘lived,’ but when I met him she wasn’t spending much time in world and he claimed she didn’t always answer his IMs. Of course, that excuses neither of us for what was, essentially, SL infidelity; but why be in a monogamous relationship with someone who can’t be in world with you on a regular basis?

Third, your SL relationship should be an addition to your RL, not a substitute for it. Don't take the risk of replacing your RL partner's affections with those of your SL squeeze.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. Obviously, that isn’t comprehensive….and I haven’t even touched on the ethical issues of online romance, or of polyamory within SL. As always, your mileage may vary. And if you have any guidelines you’ve developed that help you keep your balance, feel free to share.

Monday, September 3, 2007

If you dance with me once, does that make you my friend?

After nearly three months in Second Life, I have a bunch of people on my Friends (or, as it’s called now, Contacts) list. Some are close friends, including that “special friend” who tickles my mind and makes my heart soar and my thighs tremble. Others are people I met once, maybe in a sandbox or at a favorite dance club. One is a musician who, I think, added me in a fit of self-promotion.

It’s handy to have the people you care about on your Friends list; you can know when they’re in world to take a ‘phone call,’ and in a few rare cases can even see where they are in world. With some friends who are coupled, I know, when I see that they’re both online, to let them call me, as I might be interrupting a date if I send one of them an IM. Others send me a ding the second they see me online, and still others never call me at all.

Thinking back on how they all landed in my virtual phone book, there seems to be a pattern: avatar sees avatar, avatar engages in public chat with avatar (maybe), avatar talks to avatar in IM (possibly during a session on some dance poseballs), avatar sends an Add Friend request. People who just see me at someplace like the Juke and send me a request without even talking to me first are summarily dismissed.

Of course, the first Add Friend requests came floating my way on Help Island, starting with an Italian guy calling himself Porky. I immediately realized this was going to be an international crowd, as I overheard some other guy nearby said he was from China. Hmmm…might SL provide a good opportunity to practice my Spanish? Then I befriended a woman named Icat in the freebie store. What fun: another potential fashionista with whom I could compare notes!

Of course, as time went on and I made more friends, I noticed that neither Porky nor Icat ever showed up online when I was there—and I was there a LOT. Neither did half the other people who added me as friends in the early days. Yeah, I practiced my Spanish a little, and a smattering of German once. As the list grew, I learned to delete people I hadn’t seen for a month, or people I really couldn’t talk to easily. I learned to select friends carefully, with a conversation that lasted more than 10 minutes—or, preferably, several lengthy separate conversations. While there are still a few people on the list who are really more acquaintance than friend, I will eventually winnow them out too. But I will say that if Sasha Memotech ever shows up in world again when I’m there, honey, I’d love another chat dance, OK?

So what really makes someone a friend in SL? Do you have rules for adding people? How many people are on your list? How many of those are you REALLY close to? Discuss.

EDIT: A few people who are DEFINITELY my friends but don't call often have expressed concern that I might delete them....don't worry, it's the people who talk to me ONCE who eventually get jettisoned, and I wait quite a while to do it. Didn't mean to cause my less chatty pals anxiety!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Aquawoman Begins a New Journey

While I hardly think Second Life needs yet another fashion blog, I'm having such fun exploring the world of fashion, design, and building in SL that I can't resist starting my own little journal. I don't yet know where I'm going to go with this; I have a lot of thoughts dancing in my head about SL design and about how SL designers package their products. And, although I characterize myself as a fashionista, it isn't all about clothes and jewelry and shoes. Homes, furniture, animations, land, you name it:--it's all fair game.

That doesn't mean I'll neglect other aspects of SL such as incredible builds, favorite places, sites that need more attention, making friends, losing friends, how SL affects real life and vice versa. I'll try not to just re-hash all the other analysis already written about the sociology and psychology of SL; I'm certainly no expert in those areas in any case. (And if you're one of my SL pals, don't worry; names and identifying details will be changed to protect the guilty.)

So, let's see where it takes us. With any luck it'll be an enjoyable adventure in the metaverse, and I hope you'll join me on the journey.