Having been away from the virtual for a good chunk of time, and then now back for an equally long time, I have gained some perspective on SL. It’s basically, much like in RL, about recognition and, most importantly, about balance. The driving force behind recognition in the virtual world is productivity, which comes in many forms. Being creative provides a great challenge and a sense of purpose there, leaving us feeling fulfilled.
But fulfillment in SL is deceptive for the simple reason that it is in part a fantasy. It can by default not be completely real since our avatar representation itself is flawed, i.e. we present ourselves to others (and to ourselves) in a distorted, often idealized manner. SL is ultimately a place where nothing is as it appears. It is a chaotic world held together by artificial virtual structures and imaginary human perceptions. It is an explorer’s dream, an artist’s paradise, a business entrepreneur’s financial haven, and the senior citizen’s fountain of youth. It is a hide-away for the emotionally sensitive and an opportunity for the emotionally corrupt. It is a fantasy that takes the form of an escape or a trap or anything else you want it to be.
In order to healthily exist in the virtual world then we need to allow it to become less consuming, less fantasy-based, i.e. it can’t interfere with the real world. We need that balance, well, at least I did, and it took plenty of introspection from my end to reach this conclusion. It took hard work to change my experience and it didn’t happen over night. I have reached a point where I spend a minimal amount of time in SL, devoted to what matters the most to me, namely meaningful relationships and creativity. My time-regulated experience in the virtual world co-exists and compliments what is going on in my real life. I am excited to have the best of both worlds.
Photograph by Kate Bergdorf