Saturday, January 31, 2009

Have you seen my friend?

I'm looking for my friend Asha. She vanished from Second Life several months ago, as we are sometimes prone to do -- myself included -- and no one has seen her since. I miss her.

(Shouts, "ASHA, WHERE ARE YOU???????")

I had a horrible, morbid thought today that she could be dead and none of her Second Life friends would ever know.

Then I felt ashamed of myself for never asking her what her real name was, how her real life was going and what, really, she was all about.

Like a lot of people, I fooled myself into thinking that this isn't all an elaborate game by saying "Oh, we may all be avatars, but the friendships are completely real, and that's really what it's all about here: friendship and fun."

If it's really all about the relationships we form here, why don't I know your real names or what you really look like or if you're hurting in real life and really, truly need a REAL friend? Why do I know every minute detail about the decor in your prefab home or the items in your inventory or the skin you're wearing, but almost absolutely nothing about the real person behind your monitor?

You could say, "Hey, you never asked," but I think we can all agree that it seems really awkward to bring up our real lives in Second Life. It's almost like there's an unspoken rule that we don't talk about them, lest we break the magical spell that we've cast to create these new and improved versions of ourselves.

OH LORDY, don't ask about real life, because then some of you will be forced to admit that while you're sexing it up with a hot avatar in this virtual world, you've got a husband, a wife or a lover who quite possibly needs your attention in the real one. You know, the real world, the one that requires actual work?

If you caught a tone of disgust in that paragraph, it's directed at myself. Sometimes I spend hours in Second Life skipping around in a pretty face and lovely clothes, with perfectly coordinated dance moves and a sexy walk, goofing around with my "friends" -- the people whose names I don't really know. Hell, I go in world to cheat on my whole life.

I hit the "Log In" button and for a few -- sometimes way more than a few -- blissful hours I can forget that in actuality I look a little bit like Mokey Fraggle from "Fraggle Rock" (you younguns can Google it), that I'm getting those annoying tiny wrinkles around my eyes, that my Super Sexy Push-Up Bra really isn't pushing anything up at all, that my ass isn't slowly spreading like a pancake underneath me with every hour I spend at this keyboard, that I am an absolute white-girl klutz on the dance floor (you remember, the ones that don't have dance balls hanging over them), that at the moment I have no job or health insurance, that I used to be a much sought-after writer until the New York Times and every other damn newspaper in this country laid off half their reporters, that the words "wash up" pretty much describe my career right now, that my apartment isn't decked out in cute furniture from Mudshake but is, in fact, a complete disaster, that the man I'm dating in real life isn't a timid little pushover who's also a total bore, that I am terrified that I accidently got a wee bit knocked-up a few weeks ago because my period is late and I am suddenly oh-so-sick in the mornings and hey hey hey this baby definitely will not be a prim one, etc., etc., etc.

A click of the "Log In" button and all of that stuff goes away. At least for a while. Yep, Second Life has become my drug -- a dose of sweet oblivion until I finally log off and am left with the HANGOVER that currently is my actual existence. 

Oh, WHOOPS, I'm sorry. Was that too much information?

But I thought this wasn't a game. I thought you were my friend. You're on my Friends list, aren't you?

If this isn't a game, then why are we all using fake names? Why do I only know three people who have their real photos in the "1st Life" tab on their profiles? I think a whopping two people in Second Life have made the transition to real friendships, but everyone else on my list is a beautiful mystery to me.

I just gave you all the current sordid details of my real life. If you want to see what I look like, scroll down a couple of posts for a photo. My name is Erinn, named after Ireland where most of my family is from -- hence, my really original screen name Emerald. My mother didn't mean to put two Ns on the end of my name -- she said she was too out of it after the delivery to coherently fill out a birth certificate.

You know what? I wish I knew your real names too. And all the funny stories that make you who you are. And what your hopes and dreams are for your real life, not just your inventory or your next build. And how to reach you if you ever "vanish," just so I can at least know you're not dead. And any burdens you happen to be carrying, because I'm happy to share them with you.

Because we're not just a bunch of gamers taking temporary shelter in these perfect fantasies we've created with a few clicks of a mouse and our programming skills, right? As we always say, we're really all about the relationships here, right? Manifesting our truest, purest selves in virtual form? Keepin' it real and all that? 

"It's not a game," we cry in outrage, yet when someone permanently poofs from the grid, many of us are left scratching our heads in confusion.

If anyone knows Asha Brim's real name or where she is now, please let me know. I really miss her.


(I wish someone would've told me a long time ago that boys' hair looks sassy on girls.)

P.S. To all you Plurkers, I killed my Plurk page. It was sucking up my time and attention and, cough, I really need to stay grounded in reality at the moment.

Love and joy to you and yours,


Casandra Shilova said...

Very true. See personal IM

Sehra Kauffman said...

Oh! Hugs!

Aisuru Rieko said...

I knew some of that stuff already. I'm sorry you're in a bad spot in your life, I really truly hope you pull through it soon. I believe in you, for what that's worth. And I think I have friends here, though I've never been very good at relationships, romantic or friendly. I try. On some level, I'm sure most of these "friendships" are more like "aquaintanceships" and won't be lifelong things.

I have one RL friend, and we've only been friends since we were both adults, I don't have one of those "known them since preschool" people in my life, apart from cousins. I've known a bunch of people, been fairly close with some but I usually lose touch. I'm terrible at maintenance. So thats a true fact about me.

My name is Josephine, I'm pretty open about that, though I don't tell people my last name. I am supposed to be a graphic designer, though I've been unemployed for several months. Like you, I was let go from the publishing industry. My living situation is something I'm not happy with at the moment and I don't really want to talk about it. I also don't share my RL picture because thats also something I'm not happy with.

In a lot of ways, SL is a nice escape from stuff I'd rather not think about. or deal with. but the time for dealing is approaching. anyway, I guess thats as real as I get right now.

I think you're great, I hope you get some good stuff coming your way, and please don't bug out and leave again because that made me :(

<3 you

Laleeta Xue said...

That's a very interesting topic. I think it's more of a question of trust and feelings. I know that I have one person in Second Life I really appreciate and the transition to RL stuff and such just went smoothly without having to force it.

I just don't feel conformable telling myself I HAVE to share. I don't. Like Aisuru said most of my friends (not all mind you) are more acquaintances than not. We have fun, we chat but nothing too deep.

However if there is somebody I talk to regularly, and I mean REALLY talk not those talks we are so used to in SL that don't mean a lot, then yes RL information will be forthcoming.

Why so secretive? I guess there is always a fear inside of me of whom you might meet in here. Ergo the waiting for real friendship and companionship to settle before sharing RL related things.

Of course that doesn't mean that the people with whom I don't share RL info are not important to me! Far from it actually :)

Anyway so there, great post Eme and please don't leave us like this it made me truly sad to see you go even though I understand the feeling of panic life sometime triggers.



Noelyci said...

There's an interesting correlation between how much of an immersionist you are and whether or not you have a real 1st life photo on your profile. I hear what you're saying. Everything is 'real' to me in Second Life, but I am not that socially put together in real life, the keyboard makes a wonderful filter that allows me to be charming and witty and not a complete spaz. It's hard to admit that it's a panacea to the failings in first life. Like you it's an escape... the other issue is that it's trust. Knowing that much information can be very dangerous, as we all know, I flirt. So if you know my real name, my phone, are you gonna call my mom? My significant other? There needs to be enough trust to gain those things. For many of us who don't have good social skills that trust is hard to give out, "It truly isn't you, it's me." Sounds like a cliche and copout but it's also true.

Having said all that, I'm glad you're in SL, I'm sorry you don't have plurk at the moment and I'm sending the well wishes encapsulated in a virtual hug. :P

BTW, send you my real name in SL later. :D

Bettye Dugan said...

Great post Emerald. I really enjoyed it.

Hi, my name is Stacey. I'm pleased to meet you. :)

Emerald Wynn said...

I think the realist in me always struggles with the creative in me, and Second Life wreaks havoc on that tug of war.

I'm constantly wondering, if I can immerse myself for, my god, sometimes 12 hours at a time in a virtual world, what does that really say about me? When did I get so antisocial in real life and so content to spend hours at a keyboard? When did I lose my sense of adventure and love of real life?

But YES, when I'm in world, it's fun, I love it, it makes me happy, I love the people I know . . . so why do I constantly beat myself up for it? Someone on a pro/con SL Web site commented, "With all the time I've spent on SL, I could have used those hours to get a doctorate degree." I sort of feel that way too. Or I could at least have abs of steel by now.

I guess I feel like I could rationalize the conflicting emotions by building a bridge between RL and SL. If I know more about you (in general terms) in real life, then it won't feel so much like I'm hooked on a fantasy in Second Life. I guess that's the only way I can describe it.

As for knowing people's names, I've been shocked at the number of people who have IMed me with their real names or even strangers who have stopped me in stores and said, "I read your blog. I'm [SL name] and [RL name] in real life."

I never wanted to put people - especially my friends - in that position. I realize now that I need to respect the fact that many people come to SL for the fantasy and the anonymity.

My life is an open book to anyone who wants to read it -- the people who know me are unfortunately subjected to that often. But I can certainly see the perspective of people who don't want to cross that line in SL with their friendships.

I care a lot about my SL friends. However, there's a part of me that wonders, "If we knew each other in real life, would we really be friends?" So that's sort of always looming in my mind as well. "Is this all fake and am I going insane by spending all this time in this state of unreality?"

This post was inspired by my sadness over missing an SL friend and not knowing how to contact her in real life. Now that I have stepped back from the situation emotionally, I do want to apologize for decreeing that if we're really friends, we should share every damn detail about ourselves.

I'm grateful for the fun, laughs and talks I have with my friends in SL. And if that's as far as certain friends want to take it, I'm cool with that.

Just know that if you completely vanish and I can't find you, it'll probably mess me up.

Kharisma Llewellyn said...

*hugs Erinn* I think you just summed up all my great questions about SL in this one post.

My name is Kate and I'm an ultrasonographer raising her very ill niece. And I'm glad I've met you, Erinn. ^^

Maybe we should band together and compile an email list or if one of us does pop off world for a while we're not completely out of reach. When my niece was first diagnosed last June I stopped logging in almost without a word...first out of lack of time, running from one doctor to the next, and for the following months from emotional exhaustion and general apathy. I do wish I'd bothered to log in this summer to let everyone-- anyone-- know that my world had turned upside down, but I was still kicking, at least.

Terri Zhangsun said...

Emerald, last I heard after Asha had been off a month is that she is overseas. I know this because she left a Plurk message with our Envision landlord when her monthly land fee went over due. That was about a month ago. Maybe you can try and reach her through Plurk?

Also, how have you been? I was on last Friday when you were telling us about your phone call from the doctor. Any news? *hugs*