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January 30, 2007


David Alpert

It seems that the same argument could be made against any activity. For example, "how does it benefit larger society if someone is good at gardening, but completely insignificant when they are forced to interact with the world as themselves?" Since Second Life is a social activity, one might ask, "how does it benefit larger society if someone is good at going dancing, but completely insignificant when they are forced to interact with the world as themselves?"

What is "themselves"? What is "the world"? Why is interaction on Second Life somehow not real?

There are two issues here. First, there is the question of whether it matters if Second Life is "useful". People do many things that may or may not be useful, like watching television, going to church, or gossiping on the phone. Are these less objectionable than Second Life? If any of them take over someone's existence, that's bad, but no more so for Second Life than for any other recreational activity, other than the fact that the name makes it sound like it is competing with first life instead of a part of it.

Second, there are many ways in which success at Second Life can indeed translate into success offline, and many examples where someone can be successful in Second Life more than in the first. There are many people uncomfortable with the nuances of interpersonal interaction who practice socializing in the more controlled environment of text-only communication or of avatars, which gives them confidence for the more complex face-to-face interactions. There are people stuck in small communities where they don't fit in, with interests not shared by their neighbors. Online communities provide the missing pieces so that the individuals in question can go about the offline portion of their lives as happier people who have friends rather than lonely outcasts.

Second Life or other online communities provide what is missing when the regular, first life doesn't. I'd rather a person unhappy with his or her life find fulfillment in Second Life than misery without it, even at the possible cost that, as with any hobby, a few people may overindulge in unhealthy ways.

Desiree  Stahley

While I agree that it is nice for people to have a "virtual world" to escape to when their lives are difficult, it is hard for me to stomach that some people see Second Life and other communities like this as their only life. I agree with the original post that a person's energies should be first and foremost aimed at their actual lives in the real world. I have been in courses before that have touched on the subject of these online communities, and it shocks me everytime how consumed people get in these make believe worlds. In one of those courses, I read about a man that lost everything he had, his wife, kids, job, friends, because he became obsessed with this online world. How do you feel whole if you have nothing to show for all your online efforts? To go back to our First Amendment topics, it truly amazes me that people want all the protections from the government that is made in the "real world," but they refuse to actually be members of reality.

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