Friday, February 20, 2009


(This will be my last emo, navel-gazing, annoying post for a while. I SWEAR.)

I woke up this morning thinking about the upcoming Mardi Gras parade this weekend in Second Life and how I really wanted to buy a cool costume and go. 

I woke up this morning filled with regret for the outpouring of emotions and harsh language in my previous blog post. 

I woke up this morning and broke my own rule in the previous post and checked a few Second Life blogs.

I had a nightmare last night that all my friends in Second Life told me they were disgusted with me and booted me out of the group and the island I share with them. 

Obviously I'm sort of tormented right now. I guess I need to continually clarify that the disgust you read in my blog (or comments on other blogs) always comes from my own personal experience and perspective (and is always primarily directed at myself), although I admit that I'm pretty cynical about certain facets of Second Life.

I believe SL is intended to be an outlet for creative expression, for social networking, for entertainment and for exploration. I used to use it, actually, to get around writer's block and visualize ideas that I could translate back to my real-life work. I used it as a tool to keep in touch with long-distance friends. I used it to seek out fashion and styling ideas. And I used it to supplement ongoing studies in public relations, to take note of what excites people, what gets people buzzing, and how people talk about and react to virtual businesses. For a while it was an augmentation of my real life.

I believe that when it gets to be more than that -- when you start thinking about Second Life more than you think about your real life, when Second Life keeps you from accomplishing important tasks in your real life, when Second Life starts damaging your real-life relationships, and, hell, when Second Life starts infiltrating your DREAMS -- then quite possibly (and please note the word "possibly"), you have a problem. 

Or at least these are the standards I hold myself to. And when that latter list started applying to me more than the first one, I got really worried. I used really harsh self-talk, like "geek," "loser," "antisocial," "unable to function in the real world anymore," "losing it," "addicted," "severely depressed," and even "losing my mind."

Several posts ago, I wrote about how creative or right-brained people need playtime, and Second Life does a really awesome job of fulfilling that need. I've been out of Second Life for a whopping 24 hours and already I am aching for playtime.

During the past 24 hours, I have scheduled appointments with movers, bought new tires for my car, scheduled a tune-up, booked vet appointments, a hair appointment and a waxing appointment, finished my taxes, scheduled dates for shutting off my utilities, talked to a headhunter about a job, packed one room, worked out at the gym and had dinner with a friend.

So damn, is it time for playtime yet? 

Because right now I feel tired and stressed. And I'm realizing that goofing around in Second Life kept the stress and depression at bay. Otherwise, real life can get real damn overwhelming, particularly in this small town where I live alone and know almost no one.

I broke another rule in that previous list. I did not delete the email account associated with this blog or my Second Life account. And I've been shocked and touched by all the emails I've gotten there since my last post -- many from people who have never commented on this blog. I guess I didn't realize how many people read this damn thing, and it always shocks the hell out of me because most of these posts are so pointless.

One reader did a really good job of explaining what Second Life means to her. I won't use her name to protect her privacy. She's never commented on this blog before. I really appreciated her insights:

"I am very fortunate to have the best of both worlds. My husband and I found Second Life about a year ago. We’re busy 9-5ers (we also work together) with 3 kids between us, so there often isn’t any 'us' time. We are both computer nerds – and at the end of the day used to sit back to back doing our own thing. Once we started SL we found we would talk, learn and laugh our butts off – together online. We went out dancing, exploring, and building - at first it was a silly game – but it has grown to be a “need” (drug?). I can’t really imagine NOT doing it, and I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to look gorgeous, wear beautiful things, party all the time, and be creative.

"We, like countless others, have found SL to be a place where we can just let go of all the mundane real world stressors and play. We have met some fantastic people from all around the world and built true friendships that have extended outside of SL. I wouldn’t trade that for all of the real world acquaintances that I share small talk with on a daily basis. ;) Sometimes SL gives more than it takes away.

"Of course everything has to be balanced - and even we have found the scale tipping to one side more than the other once in awhile. We decided that we needed to set rules like – no SL until the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, a set logoff time, etc. This is how we try to keep it in perspective."

Thank you, M. I really needed to read that.

I want to apologize for my comment about people on SL who are quite possibly neglecting their real-life spouses and families.

Please know that it came from a place of personal pain.

I consider myself to be a fun, witty, and, in the right lighting, even attractive person in real life. It has always saddened and puzzled me that I've never been able to connect deeply enough with a man to want to spend the rest of my life with him.

When I was a kid, I just wanted to grow up and be a wife and a mom. I am now dealing with the reality that this might never happen, and it breaks my heart.

When I hear about married people who are "partnered" to other people in Second Life -- when meanwhile they have a living, breathing spouse or lover at home, it makes me want to scream, but only because I want the REAL thing so badly. In my mind, I can't imagine taking such a gift for granted when there are so many of us who achingly want a real person to love.

But I had no right to make such a sweeping generalization in my previous post. I have no idea what your real relationships are like or whether they are causing you immense pain and perhaps SL brings you healing and comfort. And yes, as M wisely pointed out, there are even some of you who have managed to enhance your RL relationships in SL. 

Your personal lives are none of my business, and I had no right to group them all into one "shame on you" category. 

So please accept my deepest apologies.

Enough of the analyzing. If you see me in world soon, you are welcome to call me a failure or a hypocrite. I considered creating an alt out of shame and hiding from all of you so you wouldn't know that I'm having a hard time breaking the connection that I vowed to break, but that's not the kind of person I am.

I admit my failings and celebrate my triumphs, and I still have hope that the future has many triumphs in store.


OK. I'm done with the mopey stuff. Sorry.


Krissy Muggleston said...

You aren't a hypocrite. Well said. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

*big hugs* love you. and I just realized I commented on your last post but I never hit send, it's just sitting in another one of my 20 open firefox tabs (been a busy week). so i'm just commenting here..

a note on dreaming about SL: I did that almost immediately after joining. and I don't think it's a bad thing, necessarily...

I agree there must be balance with SL/RL. But. In past experiences learning to establish that balance, I made many personal attempts at demonizing the thing (SL). At one point I realized that's not accurate, realistic, or healthy. And neither is demonizing yourself or your own behavior.

I am an advocate of working toward reasonable, achievable goals. For example, trying to go from working at a 34% success level and going straight to 100% does not stick. instead try for 40%...or something achievable & sustainable for you. stair step. you can't change everything overnight. well you can, but it rarely sticks.

on the same vein, whenever I swear to make a bunch of new changes all together they rarely work. now I try to pick out a few important ones and really give them an honest to god effort. if you achieve them, then you get reward, and new changes to work on.

this is just stuff that's worked for me. maybe it won't help you, just thought I would share. *hug*

And a big Thank you for being open and honest about your feelings and struggles. I hope you keep sharing them with us.


Learning Teacher said...

Em, I too only wanted to grow up to be a wife and mom, and am now facing the fact that it might never happen. It scares me. SL is a temptation to me in this regard because... well, a virtual relationship is something, at least - you know, like how half a loaf is better than none? But what I really want is the real thing. Who'd be happy settling for second best?

I went through a time when I let SL consume me, but am more balanced now. I think partly coz the newness wore off, and partly coz my RL got busier ;) There could be many factors to the whole thing. Hope the move goes smoothly. *hugs*


Emerald Wynn said...

Yeah, I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown right now with this move looming over me.

Stress monster. :\

Chalice Carling said...

I thought what you wrote was an amazingly perceptive observation of what SL can do to us if we're not careful. This is your blog and you have the freedom to write your thoughts and feelings here.

I very much admire both of your posts and think you are a very warm, considerate and sweet comes through in your words. I do think SL has the capacity to draw us in a little more than is perhaps healthy but wow, you are one of the people who realise this. Good luck with the move. SL needs more people like you.

Bettye Dugan said...

I have been many of those things you said you hated about married couples...and I am striving to improve them because the changes needed to be made in my RL, and I am happier than I have been in a long, long time. I didn't mean to spout happy faces out my butt, and I'll stop...I do have a point.

I was lost, and now I've found myself again. Hang in there...I know that sounds trite, but that's why I took that break, and came back.

Thank you for this insightful post...hopefully things will get better for you soon.


Emerald Wynn said...

And you came back as a bad-ass Steampunker too, Bettye! Your submarine!!! Am I even calling it the right thing? Can we ride around in that thing?! :D

Bettye Dugan said...

*laughs, and blushes shyly*

Thanks...and yes, you can ride around in it. Steampunkers call it a submersible, same thing as submarine. That's why I just call it a sub. Want to go sometime? Even though the thought of it makes me nervous, but that's because I have this gene that makes me want to hide when people look at me. I'd love to take you for a ride sometime, but beware...I drive that thing like I fly, terrible. :)