Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Are Your Eyes Really That Blue?

Recent conversations with friends, and the questions Kit posits here, have me doing more thinking about identity in SL and how it relates to RL. It isn’t a new topic in the SL blogosphere, but since my comment on Kit’s blog nearly turned into a post of its own before I applied my editor’s pencil, I thought I’d bring it over here and expand on it a bit.

Usually I’m not too interested in someone’s RL A/S/L except as it informs our activities together in SL. Age is *almost* a non-issue regardless, although having similar frames of cultural reference is nice, and sometimes I’ve run into emotional maturity issues. Gender is likewise almost irrelevant unless my avatar is becoming intimately involved (and I’ll talk about that in another post, since I have more thoughts about SL romance that need their own entry). Location doesn’t have to be specific, but knowing what time zone someone is in lets me know that I can’t reasonably expect my SL buddies to stay up with me if it’s 2 a.m. in their RL world.

As for other RL information, with few exceptions I’d rather identifying details stay under wraps. While I’m intrigued by avatar/person comparison pictures, I don’t need to see them, don’t want them from my friends, and don’t want to share mine any more than I already have. I’ve used voice but would rather not.

I’ll admit that as a friendship grows deeper, I get curious. In a few cases, I’ve met the atomic person behind the avatar, and those friendships are now in RL as well as in SL. I will eventually know the RL identity of one close SL friend because his RL work will become public. I both dread and look forward to that day. I don’t think it will change our SL relationship, since knowing some other SL pals in RL hasn’t changed our SL relationships; but I still find the impending breach of that firewall a little daunting.

More difficult for me is how my alts deal with RL information. As Roisin, I am essentially a prettier, younger, more outgoing version of my RL self. When I say *I* did something, I may well be talking about RL. But my alts, especially when talking with people who know Ro as well, have to be more dissociated from their typist. They are more purely roleplay, and can’t have the same background as Ro without losing their distinct personas. They have to refer to the typist in the third person whenever possible, even though this makes conversation a bit awkward. Unfortunately, the dissociation (and my inability to manufacture more than a rudimentary backstory for them) also makes them less well-rounded as people.

Some of my friends as Roisin have trouble seeing the alts as separate personas, even though the alts exhibit somewhat different personalities and really don’t look like Ro. They feel that they’re talking directly to the typist through Ro in the first place, so they speak right through the alts to the typist as well. Other pals are better at seeing a separate persona come through the alt even though they know the same typist is there. It doesn’t necessarily mean I—or they—need medication and intensive psychotherapy; it’s just another way to express different aspects of my typist’s personality, just as in RL we might have different personas we present at work, as parents, as children, as siblings….and so on.


Anonymous said...

Roisin, we need to chat. I just can't have people reading my posts and then coming up with more interesting things to say on their own blogs. Makes me look bad.

Of course, I'm kidding. Thanks for continuing the thoughts you started over on my blog. I hadn't really thought through the alt dimension (I don't typically use one) but it is indeed fascinating. I'm quite intrigued by the fact that you have varying levels of personal detachment with your avies. Do you feel like the fact that you have to maintain more distance when using your alts lessens the emotional experience you get, as compared to using Ro?

Thanks again for commenting. I'll post a comment directing people over here.

Roisin Hotaling said...

Kit, you could NEVER look bad! I would hope I just went in an adequately different direction.

Using the alt may emotionally buffer me a little, although much less so with Island Girl than with the male alt. I wouldn't say it lessens the emotional experience exactly; but because the alts are not my main representation in SL, it's in the back of my mind that they can more easily fade away if their limited reasons for being in SL should disappear.

Anonymous said...

Love the new profile pic - quite fetching!