Virtual Distortions Between the Sexes

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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

On Endings

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I’ve noticed that several Second Life couples ended their relationships these past few weeks. My relationship came to an end as well, perhaps that is why I am more attuned to other people ending theirs. It got me thinking. What are the types of intimate relationships we actually have here? What happens when these relationships end? And how do people move on? Second life intimate relationships of course mimic real life ones, but with obvious exceptions and limitations. As far as I can tell, there are roughly three different types of virtual intimate relationships; the sexual one, the romantic one, and the “everlasting” one. The sexual relationship can be a one night stand or an extended relationship where people usually agree to just be friends and have sex. No strings attached. The romantic relationship is a committed relationship that can last for years. People fall in love. The “everlasting” relationship is a rare one, a solid love relationship with a bond that does not seem to falter. All these kinds of intimate relationships represent forms of intensified human connectedness within the virtual world. I talk more about intensified emotional experiences in the virtual world here.

Seems to me that most couples in a virtual intimate relationship actually end up breaking up a few times before it is truly over. Once it is over, immediately following, I’ve noticed at least three kinds of behaviors (we see these behavior patterns in social media, like Flickr, etc., which are crucial communication tools for us Second Lifers); complete ignorance, tactful distancing or destructive hysteria. The complete ignorance kind of behavior is simply that. The couple stops speaking and interacting and it is, in fact, as if they ceased to exist. There is no longer any interaction in-world, on Flickr or other social media. The tactful distancing behavior can be thought of as a respectful farewell. There is an understanding that one will need time to heal, but may then be friends again at some point. This kind of couple stops communicating, but don’t completely disconnect, i.e, temporarily discontinue speaking in-world and may selectively continue commenting on/liking Flickr pics. Finally, the destructive hysteria pattern seems to be one signified by impulsivity and rage. People here engage in viscous seeming in-world and Flickr personal attacks that may lead to de-friending or blocking. Ultimately, all these kinds of break up patterns probably overlap in one way or another. They are our ways of dealing with loss.

In terms of moving on, I think people have very different ways of dealing with it. Some people may simply jump right into a new relationship because they don’t want to be alone. Others may really treasure their newfound alone time. People may immerse themselves in creativity or social activities. Some may even consider a virtual break up an opportunity to completely re-evaluate their virtual world existence and start cutting down on time spent in-world. Some may leave the virtual world all together. Whatever ends up happening, the processing of the ending of the relationship has begun. And then clearly, just like in real life, time heals wounds. Both sadness and the experience of loss will eventually fade, no matter how unlikely this may actually seem right after a virtual break up. With time we see people liking and commenting on their ex-partner’s Flickr photo postings and becoming friends in-world again. Virtual life goes on.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

The way we are

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I’ve been thinking. You know how we second life people always say that time goes so fast here? Like one or two months in second life are like one year in real life, something like that. There is a sense of distortion of time here. Could it perhaps be that this pertains to our feeling states also, that feelings like love and hate are warped in some way as well? In other words, projections and fantasies that influence our sense of time here similarly have an impact on our emotions. If this is indeed the case that our feeling states are in some way intensified in second life, that when we love there is a sense that we love more and when we hate our hate is perceived as stronger. Interestingly then, as our feeling states are experienced as more pronounced here, there is also a great opportunity to look at more difficult behaviors, try to resolve them, learn from them and grow. Just saying. Maybe I’m just thinking too much. 😛

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Inventory Madness

Inventory Madness

My inventory is a horrible mess. I have reached the point where I can no longer comfortable navigate my folders. I find myself spending an enormous amount of time trying to find the simplest thing. Truthfully, I dread opening my inventory. How did it come to this!? I am generally an organized person and I am usually on top of things like this, in fact, I would even go as far as saying I take pride in being on top of things like this! A long list of textures, mostly named Snapshot_001; a huge pile of new objects all needing to be rezzed, opened, looked at and sorted into folders; enormous amounts of scattered folders of hair that need to be tried on and then either kept or discarded; clothing, plants, furniture, buildings; it goes on and on and on…. A nightmare. I have decided that for once and for all this must be resolved. I will set aside time and sort it out. My point here is that it is actually more stressful to frantically look for items in the inventory than it is to set aside a few hours to organize the damn thing. I can’t believe I just wrote a post about inventory organization, I could have used this time to sort the inventory! 😛

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

I’m Me, Mich

I'm Me, Mich

Mich Michabo had her 11th rezz-day on April 11, 2016 and we all didn’t realize, including herself. Mich is someone who I have come to know a bit over the past months and I feel fortunate to be her friend. Not only is she one of the most unique people I have met in Second Life, but she is also one of the most creative. One of the things that I adore about Mich is that she truly does not seem to have the slightest idea how great her creative work really is. Any time I point this out to her, she simply responds, “I’m just me, Mich.” There are two videos that were made in 2014, Toothbrush, by Philip Sidek, and Le vent nous portea, by Mr. S., and I think both beautifully capture the essence of dear Mich. Take a look, I think you will agree. Happy belated rezz-day dear friend, hoping for many more to come! ♥

toothbrush

 

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

The Virtual Stage

The Virtual Stage

The virtual world is merely a few decades old. There is some research on virtuality out there, but still not much. As residents, it seems we just plug along, dealing with things as they happen and try to figure them out as best as we can. I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating; to me Second Life is a bit like the Wild West might have been, largely unexplored, and this is true particularly perhaps when it comes to our emotional experiences. I like it that way, but I am also becoming more mindful of it. While there is no doubt in my mind that emotional connectedness exists here just as strongly it does in our real lives (we think and feel here too), our projections and fantasies at the same time have a limiting and sometimes questionable effect. Keeping this in mind on each of our exploratory virtual world paths, open minds and kindness go a long way.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Virtual and Real World Overlap

Virtual and Real World OverlapStrawberry Singh’s latest blog post, Second Life Addiction, struck a chord. In her post Berry discloses that [e]ven though my mind is preoccupied with work, I still feel the longing to login. The addiction keeps calling me back. I say this is just a hobby to me, which it is, but it also seems to have a hold over me. I think many of us can relate. I know for sure that I can. To me, however, the word addiction implies something negative and I don’t think our being in the virtual world is simply that. We experience at times perhaps components of addiction, like anxiety about not logging in and similar so-called withdrawal symptoms. These can be kept at bay by most of us by simply not logging in for a while, perhaps taking a break. Our challenge being in the virtual world is about finding a balance in terms of time and mental investment that does not interfere with our non-virtual existence. Some people are better at negotiating that balance than others. It is useful to keep in mind that the concept of a virtual world is still relatively new to us. I think of us sort of as pioneers trying to make sense of things here as we go a long. I should point out that I am someone who initially thought of reality and virtuality as separate and I no longer do. I think that the virtual and real worlds overlap as we are thinking/feeling/being in both; they are the same and also not and we are trying to come to terms with this new way of experiencing things. It is not always easy and questions about addiction and also about separating the real and virtual worlds will come up and are part of making sense of the process. Having said all this, clearly, things like working, paying bills, exercising, eating right, spending time with friends and loved ones, devoting time to culture and creativity in the real world must not be neglected. Like with most things in life, being mindful of time and finding a balance are very important. Developing an awareness of the meaning of virtuality is helpful as well.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

House and Home

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I am kind of a homebody in real life and a little bit that way in the virtual world as well. My house in Second Life is important to me, partially because of esthetics, but also because it is the place that I can return to and call home. I have switched homes numerous times in the past, but my current house, The Normandy by Van Auster of POST, has been a constant for a while. Since my sim Nordan om Jorden is as of recently occupied by the gallery Berg by Nordan Art, the house is not on the ground, but sits on a platform in the sky. I thought I would not like this as much, but as it turns out, I actually prefer it. I find that while of course there is no water available or ground to terraform, the space itself is more intimate and manageable to design. I am already looking forward to in a month or so to re-design the space for winter.

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But we visited then recently a beautiful sim with houses for rent and predictably I felt the pull once again to move. We decided to look at the homes. These were such beautiful buildings and attached were the prettiest gardens one could imagine and all designed by outstanding content creators in Second Life. It was perfection. We entered several houses and found that though really well constructed and  amazing looking from the outside, there were consistent problems with interior layout and very little space to move around. We kept falling down stairs and bumping into one another. In addition, lag was a problem. We learned that day that it doesn’t matter if the house design and the setting are both stunning, tight living quarters and difficulty moving because of lag are undesirable. Teleporting home and landing in a spacious and bright lag-free living room was a big relief.

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My attachment to my home also has to do with permanence. There is something valuable about our own sense of history in this virtual world where time sometimes seems a little warped. It is important to me that the stack of books next to my laptop on my desk have been there for a while since it contributes to a sense of familiarity and homeliness. I should also mention here something about objects that have stood the test of time, specifically the classic builds  and objects by Van Auster. He figured out a long time ago that it was crucial to use only the finest textures and attend to the littles of details. Mr. Auster also realizes that avatars need interior space to move around. Finishing up writing this post, I realized I wrote a very similar post back in July about POST, where I am going on and on about the talented Van Auster just like I am here! It seems some things do not change.

House and Home

Photographs by Kate Bergdorf

Away Due To Technical Problems

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I am having some serious problems using the new Firestorm viewer and have not been able to properly log in to Second Life© for a while. The instructions on the Firestorm home page suggests to delete all Firestorm files (“clean install”) before installing the new version, which I did, but I am still having problems. If any of you use a Mac OS X, version 10.8.5, and have come up against similar problems, but still were able to successfully install the new viewer, please let me know. I can log in with the old Second Life viewer, but it is a visually painful experience (grey surroundings, mesh objects completely distorted, etc.) that I find myself avoiding. I miss my virtual world home and friends and my weekly blogging. I will be back as soon as I have found a way to sort out these technical problems. Meanwhile, wishing everybody a Happy New Year!

Photo above by the talented Strawberry Singh.