Virtual relationships, quicker than you imagine

After a recent experience, I am reminded how different digital relationships can be than those offline. Relationships virtually are a lot faster, many of them lasting but a few days. These relationships are much shorter because of the same reasons that one night stands are for just one night. Virtual relationships lack the sort of interaction that is required from a real relationship, the touching, the kissing, the cuddling, and is often replaced by cyber sex. There is also a lot of unknowns of your partner on the other side of the screen, are they of the same gender, their age, martial status, do they have children, and their looks. Although you could have a partner who is open, honest, and reveal this information, send you pictures, etc., you lack the social interaction that you get from talking to a person face to face. It is possible to simulate the realness of a virtual relationship through a webcam or through voice chatter, but both of those things are held very private to many people, and ones trust over a period of time has to be developed in order for a partner to cross that boundary.
With a lack of voice, real world knowledge and interaction, people begin to make up an impression of what their partner would be from the looks of their avatar (although it is hard to assume the same happens with furries, I don’t think those in relationships with a furry or animal like avatar expects their companion to be a real animal.) Many times, this impression is seen through rose colored glasses, fantasized, and not based on any real grounds. Many people do not create their avatars to look exactly like themselves behind the screen. This exaggerated expectation plus cyber sex can only lead to bad things!
In Second Life, these two things is coupled by the realness of interaction, cuddling, dancing, walks on a beach, even sex with animations that come very close to the real thing. This helps prolong what would have been in the real world a one-night stand, or a very short relationship, over a longer period of time. This is why so many marriages in Second Life last no longer than a month.
The best relationships I have seen last are based on being real, honest, open, and discussing upfront your intentions. Granted some may be purely pleasure based, others may be long lasting. To make virtual relationships work they have to be founded on the same principles that real relationships are based on, communication, a like and understand of the other person, and a real connection. Don’t get me wrong, the sex can be great, but never should be the basis of a relationship, in or out of Second Life.

Merging online and the real

Finally I feel as if I’m catching up with everything. I still can’t believe that one week about the 2nd Second Life Community Convention went off pretty well. Going to the convention made me think about the cross universe that we oh so often live and play in. Events like the SLCC, gaming conventions like Dragon*Con, and BizzardCon, among many Anime conventions and festivals continue to bend our touch with what is real, and the virtual things we deal with on the other side of a screen albeit television, computers, or online. In today’s culture a lot of what is created in our imaginations are slowly trickling into real life.
There are plenty of virtually created crazes that we all have forced into our real world. Lara Croft, for example, started out as a video game, but is now a cultural icon for women in media, and through the magic of movie media is now associated with the actress Angelina Jolie, and a certain look of brown shorts, a black tank top, some brown hiking boots, and guns strapped to the sides of her legs.
When you have something like most MMO’s, the main characters are the person controlling it on the other side of the computer screen, so rather than walking around a convention as a Lara Croft, people are walking around more as their digital representation in the online world. When you deal with something like Second Life where the world is based on your imagination, and where your personality is reflected by an avatar that you create, it is amazing to see how that transfers into our real life persona. I have made it a goal for my avatar to reflect myself in the best possible way. Like me, he is tall, dark skinned, but has more muscle mass than I do (hey I have to live up to some sort of expectation.) At the end of the day, he is tall and lean, just like my real world self, tall and lean. Seeing good friends who’s avatar looks nothing as they do in real life, but reflects their personality, their nature, a creative side or a certain aspect of themselves, and to be able to relate to that was quite an experience.
A lot of people discuss Second Life, among many MMO’s, as disruptive technologies. While they may be disruptive, through my experience with them, I find them also very community centered and awe-inspiring. That is something that you get from events such like the SLCC, it is a real opportunity for communities and community members to further enhance their community through a real world experience, something that is simulated on a daily basis online, but every so often put together in the real world. It is a shame that many people overlook that aspect, and delve on the minor aspects, such as locations, and ego boasting.

Afterthoughts of the SLCC

This years Second Life Community Convention was not only a roaring success, but a great event. The growth of the SLCC from 2005 to 2006, in a time span under 9 months was not only amazing, but reflects the growth of SLCC itself. Since the last Second Life Community Convention, the population has not only grown at a rapid rate, but it has also has brought in a slew of personalities and interests into the digital world, including those of major real world corporations.

As an organizer, the Second Life Community Convention, was more about being able to bring all of the aspects of the community and represent, meet, and discuss it in the context of Second Life. This task I feel was done properly, an in a manner that was able to reflect the various aspects of the growing world from its music to its business opportunities to the educational and art that is occurring within Second Life.Most importantly, the SLCC was more about mingling and meeting these other personalities in the community, gathering amongst like minds, and seeing each other in the flesh one-on-one. I wish there was more time to hang out with every single person and ask more questions about what each person was doing or their experiences in Second Life. A part of this feeling is probably due to the fact that I was running around and being focused to the needs of the convention at that time (MCing, DJing, or other technical necessities.) I also really liked the breakaway sessions and feel that next year there should be more of those, along with more scheduled outings (boy do we SLCCers love to socialize) As Second Life continues to grow, I feel that this human element must be kept in as it is important to meet as many persons of the community.

Overall, this was a very good conference, and there are a lot of people who I wish to thank. First and foremost the sponsors, Linden Lab (insert promo list here), the speakers and presenters (insert presenter and speaker list here) and the volunteers (insert speaker list here).

There are many fond memories of this years SLCC, ones I wish to continue to share with others, I’m sure in the upcoming years there will be many more memories.