Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Second Life Addiction

Last week one of my sim managers left Second Life.  She explained that she needed to walk away from SL for awhile and was not sure if she would ever be back.  She was one of my best employees. I could always count on her to be online at any given time.  She spent around 16 hours a day on SL and it was affecting her real life.  When I asked her if it was possible to simply cut down on her SL time, she replied that she realized she had an addiction to SL.  Her story is not unique.  Back in 2009, Nikala Diamond, ISL's communications manager, wrote an article for a real life tech magazine about virtual world addictions, explaining that the lines between real life and a virtual world blur because our brains can't decipher between the two. "When you become a character in a virtual world, you become that character in the sense that you control the movements.  You see the items surrounding you in the virtual world as you see the items around you in real life.  For instance, if you have a table in front of you in real life, it's not much different then having a table in front of you in a virtual world.  When someone says something negative towards you in a virtual world, you feel the anger or hurt in real life.  Same with falling in love. Your heart beats fast and the butterflies in your stomach are real."
Most of us log onto Second Life to escape our real lives for awhile then leave our SL's behind when we log off and get on with real life, but for some people their second lives become their real life.  The main reason is that their SL's are far more glamorous and exciting then their real lives. One of the residents that Nikala profiled in her article admitted that he woke each morning and immediately logged into Second Life where his avatar was "sleeping" in his virtual home. He drank his coffee and ate breakfast in real life as his avatar did the same in SL. From that point on he merged his real life with SL.  Where his avatar dressed and went out to his D.J gigs, his real life ceased to exist.  He became his avatar.  In his real life, he was an obese man with heath problems that prevented him from working and he was limited physically but in SL, he was fit and handsome.  In real life, he had very few friends and was lonely, but in SL, he was popular and had a girlfriend.  In real life, he was on a fixed income and lived in a small apartment but in Second life, he lived in a mansion and drove a sports car.  He could do everything in SL that he could not do in real life. He said although he knew it was not healthy mentally or physically to sit at his computer all day and night living inside a virtual world, he felt justified in the fact that he was disabled and SL was allowing him to work, be social and find love.  He didn't think he had a "problem" until his computer quit working and he had a mental break down from not being able to log onto SL.  "I completely panicked, I cried and begged everyone I knew to help me get a new computer.  I didn't want to live if I couldn't live in SL.  SL was my life."  He explained, " That little melt down made me see  just how much SL had taken over my whole life and it really scared me.  I had no ambition in real life but I worked hard at my DJ jobs in SL.  Without a computer and SL, I was forced to sit and think about what I was doing with my life.  I had basically given up.  I got a job at a call center where I worked 6 hours a day and went back to building model ships as a hobby.  After 3 months away from SL, I was a afraid if I logged on that I wouldn't be able to control myself and go back to my old habits. I put a limit on how much time I would spend online and can actually separate my RL from my SL now.  I really enjoy being a DJ and I got back with my SL girlfriend, who is my best friend.  My SL is still more fun then RL but at least I have a real life now."
The Sign's That You Have A Problem:
Enjoying Second Life or loving being online as your avatar, does not mean you have a problem. Even if you are in-world daily for several hours this does not indicate addiction.  I remember when I first started building and was working on a project.  It was hard to stop building and log off for bed.  After work and taking care of business, I couldn't wait to log on to SL and finish my project. Also during my day at real life work I will occasionally think of an idea or product I would like to do in SL.  Does this make me addicted to SL? Not at all.  My real life comes first.  I live in real life.  Second Life is a hobby, my entertainment.
The first signs that you have a problem is ignoring real life or choosing Second Life over real life.  This is most common for those residents that work from home, have disabilities and are housebound and stay at home mothers/fathers. As well as those who are unemployed or living in the basement of their parents home. The more time you spend on Second Life, the easier it is to become addicted to it.
However, there are many residents that work a full-time job and spend every minute outside of work on SL.  If you stop doing household chores, don't call or visit friends and family as often and put off real life responsibilities in order to stay online, you may have a problem.  A good example is an essay published by a SL resident about her addiction and how if affected her life:
" I am married with three children. I was a stay at home mom because my husband did not want me to work.  I wasn't very happy in my real life. My husband was not attentive or romantic anymore and our love life was gone. He didn't even seem to notice me anymore and we didn't do anything together. He watched sports on TV while I went into the bedroom and logged on Second Life.  I had a great second life.  I had met a wonderful man who treated me like a princess.  He spoiled me with gifts and constant compliments.  He adored me and it felt really good.  We had the most amazing wedding.  Because my real life husband kept all the money, I didn't have many lindens outside the small amount I made from modeling and a small resell boutique I owned.  My SL husband gave me a very generous weekly allowance and bought me a sim and the house of my dreams as a wedding present.  Right after my rl husband left for work I logged into SL.  I would go shopping, decorate our home, hang out with my friends and when my SL husband logged in my heart would start beating.  I really loved him and we had the most fun together.  He was smart and funny and very adventurous.  There was never a boring moment when we were together.  I didn't want to log off SL ever.  I had the most wonderful life there and I hated having to leave it to go to my crappy real life.  As the months went on, I became more and more engrossed in SL. My day consisted of getting my kids off to school, then getting on SL. I stayed online all day and an hour before my husband got home I would rush around and do house chores, whip something out for dinner and get dressed.  After dinner, I logged back online and stayed there until sometimes 1-3 in the morning.  I spent very little time with my children, which made me feel guilty.  I fed them, spent a few minutes helping with homework and then set them down in front of the TV or video games and went back to SL. Then my SL husband said he wanted to start a family and we got pregnant with the tummy talker system. He would tell me how beautiful I looked pregnant and pampered me. Then we had our SL baby.  It was an emotional and joyful experience and I loved him even more.  We got a zooby baby and took care of our SL son.  We gave him all the zooby's gadgets and toys and took very good care of him.  In real life, I had 3 children that I was neglecting.
I had been married to my SL husband for over a year when we started discussing meeting in real life.  We had shared our real life stories. He knew I was in an unhappy marriage and he was divorced with 2 kids.  He asked me to leave my husband and move in with him with my 3 kids.  I began this fantasy in my mind of this great life I could have with him. I was honestly considering leaving my husband but was afraid that he would win custody of my children.  My wake up call came when I started noticing behavior changes in all 3 of my kids.  Their grades were slipping, my youngest started wetting the bed again and my oldest was acting out. Even as all this was going on, I couldn't  pull myself away from SL. I felt so guilty but I had no control.  My husband and I had a talk about our marriage and he suggested counseling and I agreed.  During those sessions, I came clean about my second life. In order to save my marriage and children, I had to leave SL altogether.  I deleted my account and I know that I can't ever go there again."
When The Addiction Becomes Dangerous:
If your online 8-16 hours everyday, there are several health risks involved including blood clots, dehydration, malnourishment, obesity, back and leg problems, bladder infections and more.  There are dozens of cases where someone has actually died from spending too much time playing video games.  Besides physical risks there are also mental dangers such as losing your grip with reality.
As, with the above story, the addiction can be dangerous to others as well. One of the worst of these examples is the story of the Oklahoma couple who neglected and starved their almost 3 year old daughter because they spent so much time in Second Life.  In 2013, Mark Knapp and Elizabeth Pester were arrested for child abuse and neglect when it was discovered that their almost 3 year old daughter had been nearly starved to death because her parents spent all their time on Second Life.  The child was found living in filthy conditions, she was wearing dirty clothes and was grossly unweight. While their daughter was being neglected, the couple were living it up in SL with a huge wedding, a homestead and jobs.
In 2012 Justin Koutrige won custody of his 2 children when it was discovered that his ex-wife had been forcing the children to stay outside for 8-10 hours a day so she could make money in SL as a voice escort. She admitted in court that she became addicted to the game, the attention and the easy money.
Steps To Take If You Think You Have A Problem:
The first step is recognizing that you have a problem. Are you spending too much time on SL?  Are you ignoring real life responsibilities to say online?  Depending on the degree of your addiction, the first thing you need to do is set a limit and stick to it.  Make real life plans such as visiting family, DYI home repairs, a hobby or anything you enjoy doing outside of SL. Confide in a friend or family member for support.  If needed, take a break from SL. It's even better if you take a break from your computer all together. No YouTube or Facebook posts.  Often these little breaks help remind you how much fun real life is. Snaps you back to reality.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Second Life Trends and Fads

Just like real life, Second Life residents tend to follow trends and just like real life, what may be "in" today may be out tomorrow.  Keeping up with the latest thing is diligent work. Some of us are reluctant to change but at the risk of being viewed as outdated, noob, lazy, etc, we get on the bus and follow the crowd.  We looked back at some of SL's evolution through trends and fads and like that 90's hair style you wore in your graduation picture, some made us shake our heads wondering what were we thinking.
In Second Life's humble beginnings everyone was a pasty matte figure with prim hair but boy, how we have changed.  Below is a list of some of the biggest SL developments and trends.

T-shirts with funny sayings
Big eyes
Flexi skirts
Tight Jeans
Tribal Tattoos
Body oil tattoo layers
Face lights

Tall Amazon women
Muscle men
Glow skins
Prim eye lashes
Flexi Hair
Sculpted collars, hoodies, etc
Tan lines

Shoes with invisi-feet
Less muscle
Shorter women
Beards and mustaches
Alpha eyelashes and make-up
Whole body tattoos
Shoulder Pets
Lotus private parts

Pouty mouths with squinty eyes
Parted lips with teeth showing
Even shorter women
Physics for breasts and behinds
Face piercings
Sculpted nails
Lola's Tango and Phat Azz
Big butts and larger breasts

Mesh Everything! 
Mesh body clothing appliers
Mesh head facial expressions
Full figured women with very wide hips
Attachable Pets with AI

If you remember a SL trend that's not on this list comment below so we can add it.