I love Hank Williams. He’s one of these people who displayed such a prolific genius so young, you can’t help but wonder if he somehow knew that he had a limited time and was rushing to create while he could. I’m not normally what you would describe as a huge country music fan, but his songs have a stark passion and emotion that is so hard to resist. Recently, a few things in SL have reminded me of one of my all time favorite Hank Williams songs – Your Cheatin’ Heart. The biggest one of these is a recent conversation with my friend ChatBrat Pippita, in which we talked about how many people cheat on their SL partners.
This post isn’t about the question of virtual relationships and first life infidelity, but instead about infidelity within virtual relationships themselves. (First, a very important caveat: This post is not about you or your partner. I know there is a tendency among people to read into blog posts that intimate the personal and let me say for the record, this post is not about any specific person, it is simply my musing on something that I’ve seen. ) One of the things I love about Second Life is that relationships take all sorts of forms. Monogamous, polyamorous, open, partnered, you name it and SL has it. Of course, the most important part to all of this is how the two people in the relationship have defined it for themselves; if it is an open relationship, it is hard pressed to define it as cheating. All that said, among the monogamous relationships in SL – partnered or unpartnered – it appears to be relatively common for things to go sour because one avatar has been unfaithful to the other.
I’ll be the first to admit that my evidence for saying virtual infidelity is “relatively common” is purely anecdotal. But between stories from friends, observing some relationships break-up, and my own being hit on by avatars admitting to be cheating (either as an alt or more blatantly), I feel pretty safe to say that it does happens with some frequency. It happens in all sorts of ways, of course, but the most common appears to be through alting.
My big question is why does this seem to be so prevalent in Second Life? In a world where trust is the most important currency of all, why is it common for people to try to circumvent that trust? I have some partial answers; I think one is that I believe people do it because they think they can get away with it. Another is a belief that a little dalliance isn’t so bad, they still love their partner and this is better than breaking up. Finally, I think that it also has to do with why people seek other relationships in any world; they’re trying to address some unmet need. But as I mull over it, none of these seem to fully answer all the whys.
So I put it to you, dear reader, do you believe cheating on virtual partners is a common occurrence in Second Life? And if you do, just *why* do you think this is?