Thursday, March 25, 2010

Questionable Sanity of Second Life

A few disclaimers: I had never heard of Second Life before this class, have no experience with the actual site besides logging on to its homepage briefly two minutes ago and think that I am a fairly open-minded person when it comes to technology and new media. That being said, I find Second Life ludicrous and slightly disturbing.

At first, I tried to think of it as a video game- a virtual reality that you engage with briefly for leisurely fun. The more I read about it, however, the more I realized that for many of its users Second Life is not brief distraction from life- it is their life. Except it isn't- it is a life people can never actually have. The thing that most disturbs me is the amount of falsification involved in this. On Second Life, you change your last name, body parts and can lie about a vast number of other personality related things- you are living a life you do not have.

Professor Levinson vividly describes his experience as a bookstore owner, which was definitely interesting, since he is a writer in real life and can use Second Life to "enhance" his brand. But is that what it is really accomplishing? I have my doubts that a virtual bookstore reading is as meaningful as a physical one. Additionally, I understand that reality is not always ideal, but I think that these people whose life is dominated by Second Life should instead channel their energy into constructing a better actual life than avoiding it altogether.

A simple Google search affirmed my weariness about the site: numerous disturbing reports surfaced. In the UK, an unemployed couple divorced over a cyber-affair, a virtual adultery on Second Life. The couple originally got married both in Second Life and in reality, before the wife discovered signs of the affair on the game. Cleverly titled "Divorced from Reality," the original article goes into detail about the crazy story and their crazy blurred existence. I think a look at their characters (reality right, Second Life left) shows the degree of incongruity on Second Life.

I do see how Second Life can be seen as democratic and harmless (to a degree). I apologize for being so cynical, I just think that this form of social media sincerely detracts from our actual existences, the exact opposite of social media's actual intentions.


  1. I agree with your assessment that Second Life can't be so close to reality as Levinson makes it out to be. He recalls selling a book via to a costumer and claiming it was like having the book in his hands. That seems a little over the top.

  2. Some of the consequences of Second Life that have occurred thus far are certainly ludicrous. Virtual-adultery through a fake world? These instances are obscene when given deep thought to- at least for me. I think this social media in general demonstrates that on many layers regarding social media and reality, we have crossed the line.

  3. How different is it from the "flatland" of MySpace or other social media sites, though? I do share your skepticism to some degree, as I'm just not sure that this degree of virtuality is really all that effective a way to engage in social interaction online, but on the other hand, Second Life has been used for classes and business meetings.