28 October, 2008

Virtual (In)Ability

One of the cool things about Second Life is that you can overcome a lot of the physical limitations that you might feel are holding you back in first life. This is most apparent in the realm of physical appearance - considering how easy it is to look young and beautiful. Second Life also provides a vast world for people to explore who might have trouble exploring the real world, due to certain physical handicaps.

Second Life also provides its users with a sort of clean slate with which to build a brand new persona, allowing them to become whoever they want. Yet, there is a limitation to this kind of identity sculpting - a limitation which exists in the user. Although most people with half a mind and the will to do it could pull off any number of "identity guises", via a certain level of roleplay, most people do not have the skill to change their actual feelings or subconscious reactions by will.

What I mean is, you can take what you're thinking and feeling and mold it into a specific form to express it within the confines of a chosen personality role, but you can't change what those initial thoughts and feelings are. You can control how you act, but not how you react - your behavior but not your cognition (in a sense). You can choose the signals you send out into the second world, but not the ones you receive from it.

What I'm getting at is, a person with a mental disability in first life, still has a hard time overcoming that disability in second life.

Second Life is a social place. I spend most of my time there alone, however. It helps that my schedule seems to be more or less at odds with the average Second Lifer's schedule. It also helps that I tend to avoid people, and especially crowds. When I do a search, looking for new and exciting sims to explore, I have a tendency to look one up on the map before teleporting in, to see if there are (m)any people there. If there are a lot (or sometimes even just some), I'll likely pass and look for another place to go.

And yet, loner that I am, Second Life provides a nice low-stress environment for me to meet people. And it's no secret that I get lonely. Better yet, with the right avatar, it's pretty easy to get people comin' up to /me/, so I don't even have to exert any real effort. Of course, that might be asking for the wrong kind of attention...

So I thought I could be a friendly person. And sure, I'm friendly. But like I said before, the more friends I make on Second Life, the less I want to log on. It's not that I don't like these people that I've befriended, or that they bug me (most of the time they just ignore me anyway), but it's just the stress of knowing that I might be walking into a social situation that I would have a hard time avoiding without further burdening myself with the worry that I might be hurting someone's feelings.

I'm shy, and I'm introverted. I read somewhere that the two are not equivalent, despite the fact that the terms tend to be lumped together, and even interchanged quite a bit. An introvert tends to direct his focus inward, being more concerned/interested in the self rather than others, whereas a shy person is just someone who takes their time warming up to people. Therefore, you can have a shy extrovert, who acts timid in front of strangers, but becomes the life of the party as long as it's the right group of people.

Well, that's the general gist of it, anyway. And I consider myself both shy *and* introverted. I guess the shy part is more important in this discussion, though. I take a long time to get comfortable with someone. I have to know them well and for awhile before I can relax around them and stop worrying about all the stupid things I worry about. The point is, when confronted with the possibility of having to face someone socially that I'm not entirely comfortable with yet (which is, effectively, everyone), my avoidant personality kicks in. And you can guess what I end up doing.

Of course, I could start a new account - an "alt". Then nobody would know me. And although this is something that I'm planning on doing (for this and other reasons), I can't just throw away my current avatar. I've invested too much (objectively and subjectively). And besides, it would be pretty damn dickish to just disappear and leave my new "friends" guessing. I don't want to be mean like that.

On a slightly related note, I really wish there was some form of free private zone in Second Life - a small area that comes with every account, that's entirely localized to the computer you're running SL on, and has no direct connection to the online SL worldmap. It would be a place where you could go to try stuff out on your own, without interfering with the community - like clothes and building projects and whatnot. You'd still have to pay to get land "on the grid" that other users can access, but this would just be something for yourself, to fool around with, with zero distraction.


  1. And yeah, I sat down and wrote this blog entry instead of logging onto SL because I was avoiding someone who I know wants to see me. Somebody that I like, too. Does that make me a bad person? Or just a nutjob?

  2. *cheers* I love loners. So much better than non-loners. Ironically, I wish I could meet more loners. Mandy from The Den is actually a loner, but being the loner that I am, I end up trying to avoid meeting up with her.

    People is what scared me off of 2nd Life after about 2 minutes.