PostHeaderIcon Second Life = Great Escape. Or Is It really?

Rheta Shan has written a moving piece that, as commented in feedback and I concur, should likely be required reading for all those entering, or whom have for some time been inside Second Life. It's a pretty deep read and might take a bit to digest, especially if you're an American and raised on bastardized English.

Rheta goes on to say that we create and live our "second lives" because of a need. The need to fulfill something missing in our first lives. She goes on to proclaim our participation in the virtual world as an "escape". Ironically, this is no secret at all.

However, where I find the read to be most fascinating is in the surrounding commentary. Though the thrust of her message has to do with the escapism factor, it is the 'need' portion than I find to be most eye-opening and enlightening.

She also uses a story I wrote back in February describing one of the "whys" of living a second life. In that case, it was to be 'normal' again. Though she reckons that scenario to a 'detachment' of ourselves from our avatars, her point is driven home with a sledge hammer.

Compliments, Rheta. A moving and highly insightful article that really should be required reading, or at least the main thrust of your ideas should be understood by the throngs coming into the new world.
Rheta Shan: "[...] much as I wanted to give feedback and tell the authors how much I enjoyed their posts, my own uneasy balance between First and Second Life has not let me do so until now."

As for the "escapism" part, I agree wholeheartedly. The mindset one assumes while in Second Life is constantly in motion and morphing. When first arriving, it's just a game, like World of Warcraft or most other shoot-em-ups. You sit at your keyboard staring at a cartoon character looking for the method of controlling "it" and where the goals are to be found.

Then, when one learns there are no goals, that rather it is a social network with a pretty face, you either will leave and return to AOL Instant Messenger or stay. And as you begin to socialize and make friends, your perspective begins to morph and the gap between self and avatar begins to close.

I believe that gap always will be there. But it increasingly gets narrower and narrower. To the point where almost literally, well at least as much as possible, become our second selves. Look to the top of this article... the Declaimer list of this blog. Look who now author's this piece.

Though you likely already know it, "Ari" (Ah-ree) is not my christening name at birth. Rather, it is my second self. I also have a Flicker account. with a lot of 'photography' from within Second Life, but also a lot of my other, real life photography. And if you were to comment on any of those or leave a private message, that message would be addressed to... the second me.

And email, and instant messengers, and blogs and web sites and so on. How many Second Life residents are actually pushing their second selves outside of Second Life? How far will we push our second selves into the real world. How aware are we that we even do this at all?

Kit Meredith did an interesting experiment: Google yourself. Twice. Google yourself with your real name. That is to say: your real life, given name at birth. Simply surround your full name in quotes. Then, do the same thing with your second self name.

I suspect most will be rather surprised at the result. Not only at the number of 'hits' to show up under your second self name, but that there likely may be more hits there than on your first self name. So the article by Tatero Nino over at Massively where she brings up the "augmentation vs. immersion" debate and properly (I believe) rephrases it to augmentation vs escapism, might actually be about a phase we go through.

Though I'm not entirely sure what to call the third phase, it seems to me everyone who passes into Second Life will morph through three or four phases:

  1. The 'bewildered' phase, which I don't think really counts. This is where the newest residents aren't really sure what Second Life is at all. Is it a game? Is it social? What do I do and how?
  2. The 'immersion' phase. I think most people will decide to consciously enter this phase, though some will jump immediately to augmentation. This happens very quickly, when you discover that...
    1. You can completely be and appear as anything you want. Male, female, faerie, demon, whatever.
    2. There doesn't appear to be any limits whatsoever with regard to what you can or are allowed to do.
  3. Augmentation begins to slip in. at least a little. When you discover and experiment with voice. When you begin to tell friends about first life things, like what you do for a living, whether you'll be in world because of "RL Work", and when you discover and experiment with voice features and so on. Some people will jump directly to this phase and possibly experiment with immersion (escapism) later when they discover other areas, such as role playing themes and so on.
  4. But then comes this 'mash-up' phase... the phase where we bring our second selves into the real world, yet maintaining our second identities and personalities. The so-called "drama" of second life. And that drama is carried out into the real world, though we insist we are still our Second Life characters. For example, the fashionista world is rife with drama and, what I feel is a majority of ridiculous, petty arguments and, for the participant, seems to get their blood to boil. It makes one want to shout "get a freaking life, for crying out loud"
So what is it called when we reach that fourth phase?
Is it really still escapism?

When does it go from escapism to delusional?
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