As the reader of this blog already knows, now and then I put on my thinking cap and try to sort out various virtual life conundrums. Today I will look into another aspect of virtual distortion. As most of us are aware, things are rarely as they appear and I think I can safely say that this rings more true in second life then it does in real life. In the virtual world then, and I refer specifically to second life and Flickr here, we can divide distortions into obvious and less obvious. The animal avatar is a good example of an obvious distortion. Standing in front of a cat in second life, we can be pretty certain there is no real life cat sitting behind the screen maneuvering the kitty in the virtual world! The less obvious virtual distortions are harder to detect. And when it comes to male and female virtual interaction, there are as many distortions as there are stars in the sky. Think about it. Who is the other person behind the avatar? Unless we have actually met this person outside the virtual world, there is no way of knowing. Yes, we have hope, we have faith and many of us love others here, but that is all we have. Moreover, there is a kind of unspoken agreement between us in the virtual world that we will just act as if the fantasy we live here is real. The virtual image of the other on the screen, coupled with our own fantasies about who we want to be and who we want the other to be, is in reality deceptive beyond words. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Just saying.
Photograph by Kate Bergdorf