No, this post isn’t an homage to that musical supergroup Three Times One Minus One, but about how we keep our first and second lives together. People come and go from Second Life all the time; it is simply the way things go in a pseudonymous virtual world. (Which I blogged about before here.) To be sure, the reasons people leave are many. Things get too busy in their first life. They get bored of their second life. The list of reasons goes on and on and on. Yet despite what people cite as a specific reason, I have noticed one theme among a group of departures upon which I can make a generalization. There are exceptions, of course, and it doesn’t cover all people leaving SL but it does address a large group of departures. Here’s the general trend that I’ve noticed:
“The lifespan of an avatar is inversely proportionate to the distance one keeps from their first life.”
Or, more simply put, the more people have to work to keep their first and second lives separate, the shorter their second life. No, I’m not talking about people who don’t divulge their first life name, because that is probably 90% of SL Residents. I’m talking more about the avatars who avoid acknowledging that they even have a first life. If you’ve been around SL, I’m sure you’ve met the type; these are people that avoid sharing they had awful day at work for fear that someone might ask them what they do. This is more about being so cautious that the person refuses to share contextual information as friendships develop. Half the people in SL have something to the effect of “SL is SL and RL is RL” in their profiles, but I would venture to guess that the majority of them share some of their RL with people they’ve grown to trust.
But this doesn’t just apply to keeping your first life secret in your second, but also applies to people hiding their second life from their first. I tend to think that this is actually a larger group. This is the people keeping their entire experience in Second Life secret from their spouse or partner. Working hard to keep things hidden requires effort and psychic energy that eventually takes its toll. Or, as one friend who left put it, “I just couldn’t keep lying all the time.”
Let’s be clear, I’m not judging here; at various points in my Second Life experiences, I’ve worked hard to keep them both separate. While Second Life allows us to explore boundaries, create and do things that we might not be able to do in the atomic world, we really only have one life to live. More accurately, I think it is often a process of realization that to maintain it all, one must find ways to be comfortable integrating all of these experiences together or risk burning out.
I would love to hear your two cents on this. Do you feel you had to find a way to integrate all these aspects of your life? Or, for those of you who work to keep them apart, has it felt challenging to do so as time passes?