Monday, 30 March 2009

Well you can't really be friends...

Today marks an interesting day in my SL history... exactly one year ago I came home from a spot of RL, nervous of what I might find. Why?

One of my best friends... and certainly one of the longest serving on SL had posted to me just before I went away that they were ending it all - too depressed to carry on. She had been talking of taking her own life for quite sometime, dealing as she was with all manner of identity crises, lack of job, clinical depression and family issues that she had hinted at; but I had never decided to try and drum out of her.

So when I came back and found that she had not been online since our conversation, I did the only thing I could think of to do. I posted on the SL formus that I had a friend, somewhere in SLT+2 hours who had not been online for a few days and was threatening suicide. The response from the community was somewhat abrupt...

"What? you don't know their name or contact details... you can't be much of a friend" one said while others backed her up - and this hurt. OK... the one that said that Linden Labs wouldn't get involved in issues like this was at least civil; but it got me thinking.

Why is it so ingrained that to be friends with someone in SL, you have to know their RL information? Name... age... sex... location... family history... passwords... bank details... blood type... etc. To be honest, I prefer NOT to know too many personal details about people I meet in-world aside from the trivial (and even the most ardent segregationist shares a few personal details) but it seems that in general I'm in the minority, and that RL does come between people and get in the way. OK... close friends tell me more, and I share more with them - In the case of this friend I was, in many ways, honored that they felt comfortable enough to share... but really it wasn't so much sharing RL as a cry for help... and one I could answer.

Oversharing, however, has caused the death of at least one of my previous relationships in-world. I stopped dating the avatar, as they slowly transformed into their RL self, spilling way more information than I requested or required. In fact; it was more than I was comfortable to accept. In fact it's got to the stage that I believe that as soon as as I find out someone's RL name, then it all goes to hell.

OK... maybe I'm weird, or not using the metaverse's social networking base to it's fullest potential; but I see SL as escapism to a limited degree... I mean, even how I dress is escapist - I wear a lot of latex in-world, while outside I'm allergic - but I digress. In a place where imagination runs riot and you're not limited by your Real Life self, why tie your avatar so much to your Real Life one that your friends refer to you by the typist name rather the one floating above your head?

In the meantime, I am Kallisti Burns... in RL I am, as far as you know, Kallisti Burns... I certainly am to my other half... ;)

Anyway... Hopefully next time it won't be six weeks between posts. Work has been mental in-world, and I've had a lot of half formed ideas... just no time to develop them fully. So until then, I remain,


As it happens, one year later, the girl concerned has done a complete 180... has pulled her life back on track and is looking forward to the future. She's still one of my closest friends, and I'm so proud of her... :)


Minx Arashi said...

I'm so happy to hear your friend is better.

It seems like so many people get confused about SL and RL friendships, which kinda makes sense since there's really never been anything exactly like SL before. My RL friends, family and whatever are in one place while my SL friends are in another. It's all about context. I can't share the same kind of experiences with my RL circle as I can with my SL, so yah, I keep everything as separate as possible.

It really IS two lives, and why complicate one by messing it up with the other?

SL IS an escape, or at least a hobby for most of us. I don't annoy my First Life friends with SL drama and I try to keep my RL issues or whatever as separate from my SL friends as possible.

Thanks for such a thoughtful post... it's something that's worth sharing.


Puck said...

Good news about the friend.

I suppose I'm a bit of a blend of rl and sl. I'm very much in sl as I am in rl. I have a few rl friends in sl. However, sl is an escape for me. And a chance to realize aspects of myself in the virtual world that don't translate to the real world. Like the bit about attire. I can't get by wearing in rl what I love to wear in sl. I have an age in rl, and I don't in sl, so in a way, I'm more fully myself in sl in that regard.

And I don't want to get too close in sl with someone, unless there is the possibility of actually being rl friends. If an av lives 20 minutes from me in rl, and I like them, then sure, I want to meet in rl. But I am capable of keeping one's av separate from one's rl. I do have one casual sl friend who I know in rl, and they are more like two different people to me.