Thursday, September 24, 2015

The People Behind The Avatars

Recently, I witness an incident at a popular SL shopping mall that compelled me to write about it.  It involved two ladies pushing baby carriages and minding their own business until messages started popping up in local chat that one of the babies was hungry. Then another message that one needed changing and if that wasn't enough, one of the ladies had a tummy talker telling her she needed a glass of milk.  Personally, I don't let things like that bother me, to each his or her own I say.  But there was a group of 5 people that had been filling my local chat screen with complaints about prices, derogatory statements about the merchandise and gossip about someone named "Sassy" and "Wolfgang" for a good half an hour.  This I ignored also, and kept shopping.  What I couldn't ignore was the group ganging up on the virtual mothers.  They called them everything from stupid idiots to mentally challenged.  One of the ladies told the group that she couldn't have children in RL and had waited 6 years through the adoption process only to find out her husband was dying of cancer and was no longer eligible to adopt. And then the ladies left.  I was surprised by the groups comments after.  Expecting them to continue their tirade, I almost left too, but one of them exclaimed, "They should make those prim babies IM in private and not in local but she taught me a lesson, not to judge. My RL Aunt could never have kids and it really made her sad, if she was still alive, she would have loved to have a baby in SL".  I smiled, as things like that help restore my faith in humanity, but it didn't end there.  The conversation was like a revelation of sorts for the group, each sharing stories of someone who is handicapped or disabled and living vicariously through SL.
I shared this story with the ISL group and was reminded of one of our earlier members.  Mike was a brilliant and accomplished writer who happened to be 450 lbs.  He had multiple health issues and worked from home.  In SL, he was fit and handsome and could do all the activities that he couldn't do in RL.  He found a SL girlfriend and had the virtual wedding and homestead.  ( Mike had a gastric bypass operation, lost 200lbs, regained his health and has left SL for many RL adventures.)
We never know what story lies behind the avatars we see everyday in SL.  Those who come in-world to hurt others and cause drama obviously have RL issues that have made them angry, hate-filled people and I'm sure there are a few psychotic's too but there are many in poor health, disabled, widowed, lonely, etc.,  people who try to bring a little normality to their lives through SL.
A common profile statement is "I don't mix SL with RL".  or "I keep RL and SL separate".  That's fine.  If you don't want to share your RL information or you escape RL with SL and for those reasons you keep them separate, that's your prerogative.  Most times, as we build strong bonds and friendships, RL slips into the conversations.  What state we are from, our occupations, marital status, etc.  Constant reminders that there are human beings behind each avatar.

The Innovative Second Life group is formed of RL writers, photographers, editors and publishers so we share information and like Mike, we know each other's personal lives as we share publications, print credits and RL accomplishments in our professional field.  Several month's ago, we planned a RL meet and greet.  We were lucky to find a date that worked into our busy schedules and everyone was able to attend but one (which we had on video chat for much of the weekend).  After awhile, it was apparent, that our SL and RL self's, were one in the same.  Jack was just as humorous as his avatar.  Nik dominated the conversation as she does in SL and Marcus pulled his clever pranks.

Before you judge anyone in SL, remember that it's a human and you don't know what their RL story is.

Innovative Second Life Group Meet & Greet - April 2015

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