an editorial by: Emiley Tomsen
It’s another typical night in Second Life as I sit at my desk in real life, and my avatar sits in her house. The text of several group chats and personal instant messages occupy my screen, as friends and co-workers share details of their day and the latest information on various projects. Another group chat window comes to life as reports of a day old griefer alt filling a sandbox with replicating Hitler
cubes, start to pour in with corresponding responses from Peacekeepers arriving to help let the Lindens know about the attack by filing abuse reports.
Yep, it’s another typical night in SL, and sometimes it makes me wonder what is there in SL to hope for. I’ve been in-world for over three years, seen many ups and downs with the service and experienced more than my fair share of drama. As I sit back and think, “what is there in SL that really brings hope? Why do I stay here?”, it’s a question I’ve asked myself many times before, especially when I’ve had my days when nothing felt to be going right.
This isn’t necessarily a Pro-Second Life article, it’s not meant to bash it either. I thought I would relate why someone who can be as cynical as I am at times, would stay for as long as I have in a world so fraught with controversy. You can make up your own mind as to what you think of SL, and perhaps relate your experiences in the comments section. Like many, I started using the service in 2007, and was fascinated by this interactive world. Having never been a big gamer like some, this was my first experience with this sort of technology.
Over the years I tried many things in SL, and met some very wonderful people from around the world who I could never have encountered in real life. I’ve also met my share of despicable people, who have helped give SL it’s sometimes much trumpeted seedy reputation. I’ve owned a business which didn’t work out, and even loved and lost. Despite what some might think, this digital realm, metaverse, whatever you want to call it; can produce very real emotions for the person who controls that expressionless avatar. I’m not trying to make SL sound bad, it’s just reality, and perhaps this Second Life is more like the first than many think.
Oscar Wilde was quoted as saying “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”. As I’ve found out this is very true, especially in Second Life. In this world where your AV is your mask, people don’t feel the intimidation of real life. And what they tend to express to each other here, is their pure emotions and thoughts. Even if they’re playing what they see as a character, they tend to be more open and honest in how they express themselves. And perhaps what has kept my attention for so long, is seeing the average person build empires from nothing. In this world the man who would be treated as a lowly peon in real life, can in SL… be a King.
During my darker days, I ask myself again, “Why do I stay? What gives me hope?”. I look at my friends list and remember, those people g ive me hope. The missions they’ve dedicated themselves to, give me hope. The mission and the work I’ve dedicated myself to … gives me hope. I can make a difference in peoples lives here, and the friends I’ve made also make a difference in others lives, and in my life. Friends like Dwen Dooley, of the Second Life chapter of Relay for Life (RFL), sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Dwen introduced me to the RFL and its mission to help raise money and awareness of the battle to defeat cancer in real life. I got to see how passionate about RFL he is, and how much he truly cares about helping others fight cancer, and cope with the hell some go through during that fight.
Not long ago I had what I felt was the sincere honor of getting to help provide security for a memorial service, for a man known in-world as Jeffry Pastorelli. The ROF Coalition (Remembering Our Friends Coalition) had lost their dear friend and co-worker to cancer. While I and others stood in the back of the room, monitoring the region for griefing activities, we got to hear Jeffry’s friends and loved ones,
including his real life wife share over voice, emotionally charged stories about how Jeffry had made such a profound difference in their lives and in the battle against cancer. That day added to the reasons why this Second Life gives me hope, as I got to witness the hope and joy others experience through the tireless work of others in this world.
Recently on Veterans Day, I sent a notice on a couple groups I manage in which I expressed gratitude on behalf of those group’s management to the soldiers of the real world who fight to keep our liberties alive and well. I shortly received an IM from a person who wanted to thank me for letting him know that he wasn’t the only one in SL that gave a damn about the troops, since he has family serving in the military and that this was a very emotional day for him. It’s times like this that let know I’m making a difference and getting to spreading hope to others. In SL I function in many capacities, a theater manager, a Peacekeeper, a Blue Lantern, and a friend to many who have in-turn enriched my life in ways I never thought possible.
I started in Second Life in 2007, and three years later I ask myself “Why do I stay? What gives me hope?” I can now honestly say, “These people and this world gives me hope, and this is a world I will fight to protect.”
If you would like to join this fight, and help yourself and others find a reason to have hope. Then please, get off your digital couch and go out into the communities and just help. Donating money, attending events to benefit others, or just being there to help support people who need a friend. You can make a difference in someone’s life that will benefit you in ways you may not know yet. Second Life and the other digital realms out there are not a replacement for real life of course, but they are a gateway to new worlds. A portal that allows you to interact with people from the farthest reaches of the globe, and develop friendships you would otherwise never have dreamt of making stranded in the real world.
Interested in helping people in Second Life?
Don’t hesitate to just search for places to spend some time to mentor others, and check out these resources for more information:
General Volunteer work:
Charities in Second Life:
Relay For Life in SL: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Relay_For_Life_of_Second_Life
Remembering Our Friends Coalition: http://www.rememberingfriendsmemorial.com
Four Bridges Project: http://fourbridgesproject.org (Four Bridges represents multiple charities in SL, great place to help lots of
Amnesty International: http://amnestyinternational-e.org