Arc of an Avatar

May 27, 2011

In answer to my last post, nope, I wasn’t typing, sorry about that.  I’ve not updated my blog for the past six months for a variety of reasons.  Probably the biggest is that I haven’t spent much time in Second Life at all during that time.  The other is that I’ve simply not had anything  that I felt like saying about Second Life.  Lately, however, I’ve found myself reflecting on my experiences; wondering why I don’t think to log in much any more.  There are many reasons, of course, but I’ve broken them into two broad categories.  The first category is that *my* SL shifted and the second are my first life reasons for having a robust second life.  I’m hoping to blather some about each in this and a subsequent blog post.

The ways in which I interacted within Second Life changed for me.  One of the things that I felt when I started was an experience of place; that I was *there* through my avatar.  As time passed, I found that Second Life became more like a glorified chat room.  I would log in and my avatar would stay in one place while I would juggle conversations in IM.  I recognize that this is my own fault; I certainly chose activities that led to that sort of interaction.  While I chose those interactions, I can’t help but think that I followed some sort of arc of interaction with an avatar through the sorts of conversations I was having.  Like any context, I got to know people over time.  Where much of my conversation began as relating to the experience my avatar was having or interacting with the context of Second Life, with time more of my conversations were with friends about whatever we would feel like discussing.  In this case, much of the conversation eventually gravitated toward first life.   Talking more about first life reinforced those interactions and I realized that I was interacting through place and avatar less and less.  Not that this was bad, but it was different and marked significant shifts in my experience with Second Life.  The more I experienced it as a 3D chatroom, the less important Second Life felt to me as a place.

I can’t help but be curious if others have had this sort of experience.  So I put it to you, dear readers, have you felt your lives blurring together the longer you were in SL and got to know people in more real ways?  Did that lead to a change in experience for you?  Have you done anything differently as a result?



  1. Hey sweet! Always good to see you.

    I tend to the “sitting on the porch IMing” trap too, but what saves me is the physical nexus of my friend communities: dancing at the Savoy Jazz Club or the beach in Minoan Crete, I see most of my friends, and that does provide real avatar-embodied interaction, and community, rather than just one-on-one chat.

    Still, that sense of avatar embodiment waxes and wanes, and when it wanes, only my work brings me into SL. I know I go through long phases – and I think my friends are getting used to the phases too.

    Without work and my “365” project, I’m sure I’d have left last year – but I’m grateful for them, as they keep me in touch with good friends I don’t connect with that much in other media.

  2. Nice post!

    I experienced the same cycle you described with relationships. For the first six months or so of avatar life, I disclosed absolutely nothing about RL. But as I developed a number of good friendships, the walls I had established began to feel constricting and I began disclosing more information on a person by person basis. As I began to reveal more about RL, the feeling of unique avatar identity began to diminish within those friendships. And as you described, when the relationships pushed out into IM, email and social networks, Second Life became less crucial.

    My Botgirl Questi identity today is completely independent of the virtual world, and is experienced by me most strongly through creative works rather than real-time interaction.

  3. Wow, here I thought I was the only one.

    I’ve been trying, for months now, to put my finger on why my enthusiasm for being inworld has waned and I believe you hit the nail right on the head.

    When I first logged into SL, my immersion was all encompassing. My RL had little to do with who I was and how I interacted with people inworld. But as time went on and I got closer to people, my RL seeped in little by little. Now it’s seemed to have taken over, and I’m not at all happy about that.

    I long to go back to the time when everything was about my inworld interaction, I just don’t know how to do that without starting over on a new account. And I’ve invested too much time and energy on Dresden to let him go so easily.

    I really look forward to reading your future posts on this subject. Though I don’t have an answer yet for my dilemma, I feel reading this has put me one step closer. Thank you for that.


  4. What a great post. This is the truest to my SL experience that I have come across. I used to believe the received wisdom that SLers divided into two broad categories; “immmersives” who leave RL behind as they log in and “augmentationalists” who see it as an extension of their RL, similar to Facebook I suppose. But I seemed to move from one to the other, and somewhere in between the magic just died. I havent logged in since early April, largely due to RL, and though I might this week end, thats again due to RL, and similar to Dresden I dont think I could really invest psychologically in another avatar. Two things I shall do though as a result of reading your blog; firstly follow your blog, and secondly, try after this break to become more ‘immersive’ again, so that its not just another medium to communicate RL. Thanks again for articulating something that was in my head. all the best Jack.

  5. @Jack: But, how do you become more immersive once RL has taken over? That’s what I’ve yet to figured out. I don’t stay inworld enough to know how to even start changing the way I behave there. And heaven knows, I can’t change the way others behave towards me.

    I feel lost and so very alone when I’m in SL now. I’m scared to make any more connections with people for fear that it’ll end up just the way it is with the people I interact with now… RL oriented.

    Should I force myself to log in and try to make friends again? Just to face the possibility that, at some point, I’ll expose too much and end up in the same situation as I am now?

    Honestly, I’m really very curious as to how you, and everyone else, deals with these kind of issues. I think a lot of people feel the same way but never feel poem enough to talk about it… they just leave SL and never come back again. I don’t want to do that.


  6. um… poem was supposed to read open… lol.

  7. […] agree with Lanna and Chestnut… more often than not, I’m just typing in IMs or laying back and listening […]

  8. I’ve never hit the point of staying in one place having conversations in IMs, though I have sometimes lingered places I’ve teleported to just chatting while I waited for things to rez – sometimes even losing track of where I am. Of course, I have a very small number of people that I share offline information with, and I’m slow to trust people with that kind of information. I’ll sometimes talk very generally about things, but I prefer to not be nailed down to specifics and I find it sometimes puts people off, who expect more of an a/s/l interaction.

    I think if your focus on Second Life is primarily to relate to other people, roleplaying might be a good immersionist means of maintaining the sense of “no offline” while still enjoying relational interactions. It gives a focus for your interactions, and things to discuss, but is extra-offline and so doesn’t risk going into an area which seems to flatten Second Life for some people.

  9. I started my virtual life with full disclosure. i never had the split 1st 2nd experience. well, i must say i did at first but not very strong. i react from the same brain in the physical world, on the phone, and in sl. I think that is one of the reasons i really had no arc in interest. i was there for a purpose, and once there, found more purpose, found good friends, was offered new opportunities, but never lost my interest in logging in when 1stL allowed. .. after all it is physical, it is here knocking at my door.. it must be responded to first.

    of course at first in Second Life, i was so amazed at the visuals, the amazing builds made by others.. and i, as in my first life.. began making things.

    I have seen many people come into the virtual, and even if they projected their own personality, if they found no relevant purpose to be in the virtual, they did not come back. which makes sense.

    i dont think it is the merging of the first and second selves that causes any disengagement with the virtual environment. I believe it has more to do with how you integrate it into your whole life. to me, second life has become sort of a neighborhood i visit on a regular basis to visit with friends, tend to business, have fun building things… basically the same activities i am engaged in in first life as well. one of which is the constant delight of finding new visual and/or interactive spaces… wow.. just like rl! 🙂

    i read or heard recently.. (of course i cannot remember where or from whom) … the telephone is a means of virtual communication. we are not face to face, we have no visual (well yet) but no one blinks an eye at a phone call. it is a virtual world that we are used to.. that we have incorporated into our lives.. so we dont really study how it makes us different anymore.. or is it important if we prefer f2f than phone.

    whether one loses interest in any particular world or space… virtual or physical.. has a lot more to do with our activities, feelings, purposes, and where they lie, than whether we are representing ourselves as cartoons or not 🙂

  10. Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

    Two points I would like to re-emphasize:

    1) There are other reasons why I’ve been in SL less that I was planning to talk about in a follow-up post; and
    2) this post wasn’t suggesting that talking about RL in and of itself was the reason for my logging in less, but that I took less advantage of what the medium had to offer.

    I’ve always felt the immersionist v. augmentationist debate was a false dichotomy. From the start of my time in SL, I have always talked about my RL context; while I stayed away from details that could identify me in RL at first, I usually would share stories about my family or a particular anecdote from the day from the start of my SL. Standing in one place and chatting in IM about RL is a symptom of how my SL shifted. The less I went out and experienced on the grid, the less I interacted through my avatar. I don’t think it is as much about what I talked about as *how* I talked about it that helped to cause things to shift for me.

    Like @Dresden and @Jack, I do wonder if reshaping your experience is a little like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. RL calls, I’m afraid…more to come!

  11. Kinda there myself. I still enjoy building and writing in the virtual enviroment, but the rest isn’t.as.cool anymore. Real has taken precedence in many ways as well.

  12. I think you’ve pretty much got it right with this post Charlanna. It certainly ties in with my own experiences.

    I’ve found that as friendships in SL have gotten richer, a certain amount of disclosure occurs, blurring meatlife and Second Life. Sometimes that’s okay but that then turns SL into a 3D chatroom rather than an immersive and escapist bit of fun.

  13. I don’t think there is anything wrong about being an “immersionist” or being an “augmentationalist”, or moving between the two.

    I have very close friends in SL, and indeed we share much of our Real Lives. I also meet new people every day, and with them, it’s all SL, all the time. Nice post, nice discussion!

  14. Hi Lana, this post is really interesting, nice read. Someone mentioned here something about the minute you get to know the person behind the avatar, you start forgetting about second life. In my opinion, this is exactly what this games are for, because yes, this is a game.

    P.S: On another note, if you do link exchanges let me know ^^


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