Op/Ed: Finding Real People in Second Life

by Jessica Holyoke on 01/01/09 at 6:23 pm

by Jessica Holyoke

A complaint I have heard from the 'Get A Life' crowd is that the people you meet on Second Life aren't real.  Because you may never have seen a photo or know their name, they don't count.  I once mentioned  to a close friend of mine the snow storm another friend of mine suffered through which prevented her from logging on, and I was asked how we met.  When I said I know her from SL, I was told that my SL friend wasn't real.  

And there is a certain amount of 'puffing' with the people we meet in SL.  No woman is as skinny in Real Life as they are in Second Life.  A man might have 300 pounds/136 kg/15 stone on him, but its not going to be muscle.  Very few people have a human avatar that is less attractive physically than they are. *[see HAMAT rule note] 

Appearance alone does not tell the whole story.  One of the things SL is missing is ID. If you are in a virtual world where you can do anything you want, even those internal psychological controls are missing.  That's why we have so much sex and fetish on display.  That's why we have griefers and drama queens.  There is nothing holding us back. 

Readers might remember my series on Red Light Center, an adult based virtual world.  One of the fascinating things about Red Light Center, as opposed to our own SL virtual world, is the more prevalent desire to link a real life identity to their virtual life one.  The Red Light Center member profile pages are similar to MySpace – usually going into great, and sometimes too intimate detail on the person behind the avatar. 

With RLC, they had the sex, but it wasn't the same as in SL.  It wasn't approaching the fringes as it does in SL.  RLC also didn't have the griefers or drama queens.  But even with profile pages showing very much of the person behind the avatar, I would say that who we meet on SL are more real than the people we meet in the physical world.

Our true thoughts and feelings are on display here.  If we think someone is an asshat, no amount of social kindness is preventing us from saying that they are an asshat.  If you feel like a man, you can be a man. If you feel like a woman, you can be a woman.  If you feel like a fuzzy little creature from Andromeda, you can be a fuzzy little creature from Andromeda.  The fun thing about SL is that everyone else will see and react to you as if you are a man, a woman or a fuzzy little creature from Andromeda. 

This is not like when people get together to golf or play football, and the real person inside supposedly comes out.  There only the shared interest that is on display.  With hearts and minds so dramatically on display in SL, the real people are the ones on your screen.  

*[HAMAT rule note]:  The Human Avatar is More Attractive than the Typist rule or HAMAT rule.  In writing this piece, I was going to note the exception to the  HAMAT Rule was Aimee Weber.  Then when you look at Phillip Linden's avatar, he is also cuter in Real Life than in SL, so maybe he wasn't trying to follow the HAMAT rule and just went with a funky avatar.  The same could be said about Aimee Weber.  Therefore, the only person I know who doesn't follow the HAMAT guidelines would be Robin Linden. 

19 Responses to “Op/Ed: Finding Real People in Second Life”

  1. Prokofy Neva

    Jan 1st, 2009

    No, you’re wrong. You’re not real, for example.

    P.S. You’re also not a lawyer.

  2. Witless X

    Jan 1st, 2009

    Hyprokrisy at its best. The whole Prokofy Neva character is just a facade, a puppet. You are not an man in real life, but you prefer to be addressed as a “He” in Second Life. Join the ranks of manginas that you hate so much toots, because you’re right there with them.

  3. Blak Hax

    Jan 1st, 2009

    “And there is a certain amount of ‘puffing’ with the people we meet in SL. No woman is as skinny in Real Life as they are in Second Life. A man might have 300 pounds/136 kg/15 stone on him, but its not going to be muscle. Very few people have a human avatar that is less attractive physically than they are. *[see HAMAT rule notel”

    I hear that! I once went to meet my online boyfriend, this guy named “prokofy neva” hes totally a cool landbaron in SL we spent many moonlit nights up in ravenglass rook.
    When i go to the hotel for some hot man on man love with him in RL, it turned out to be a greying old lady with lots of cats!!!!

  4. mootykips

    Jan 1st, 2009

    yeah and you’re not a man prok

  5. huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    Jan 1st, 2009


  6. Gwyneth Llewelyn

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    At least we know how Vint Falken looks like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vintfalken/1168176011/

    I’d say Vint’ll be another prime candidate for looking cuter iRL than in SL ;)

  7. The Patriotic Nevas

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    Furries are not real. They can’t be. Its Impossible. Thats all. Carry on.

  8. An Attorney

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    I really hope that she is not an attorney. Maybe it’s just idealistic sentimentality, but I would like to think people who have undergone the rigors of the bar examination have more important things to do than blather on about ‘feelings’ and inane psycho-babble in an attempt to explain relationships in a pseudo-reality world. What is real, something that an attorney should know, are problems between persons of this nation that can only be resolved with the help of legal interference. If she has joined the bar, and has time to waste whining about her friend’s failure to indulge her selfish escapist fantasy connection likely created out of sheer loneliness, then she is not doing a very good job as an attorney. Lawyers should know better than to lower themselves to this type of mindless ‘feel good’ drivel that seems to permeate modern society. Then again, I guess it’s better than being an alcoholic.

    P.S. You may want to consider forgoing your bar dues this year…or at least hanging yourself.

  9. Baron Cuttlesmith von Blogharder, Esqu, MD

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    I have been looking for a term to describe the average moron on SL. We already have “Blingtard,” “Milifag,” “Pixelfucker,” “businessfag,” and of course “furry” to describe several basic phyla of inane stupidity in the Game We All Love, but there is yet to be coined a term to describe the group of fashionistas, shirtless shits, and hipster-clones we see scurrying about in their own ecosystem. HAMAT is a retarded term because it sounds like an acronym from a fucking 1970′s electronics manual, but comes close to describing these people, and of course “pubbie” is too obscure and limited to use among a select group of people.

    Delving into the basic description of such fucks, we find various commonalities: 1) they make their avatars look better than themselves, often absurd idealizations 2) they dress, more or less, in modern attire and 3) they have a fondness for SL clubs. Habitats include clubs, welcome areas, sex dens, and various shitty builds across the mainland. If you have any candidates for such a term to describe these assholes, please give it.

    When I see a newbie, freshly born, immediately make their avatar the most ridiculous, ugly, distorted piece of shit ever, it gives me great hope. Anyone who doesn’t play SL like The Sims RPG (or is one of the aforementioned faggots) gets high marks.

  10. Sigmund Leominster

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    On the basis that it is almost impossible to “know” someone’s real-life persona unless you go visit them, one way to avoid any feelings on uncertainty and get lost in the “Search for Truth” is to simply ignore real life altogether. Take the folks you meet in SL just as they are in SL and stick to that. After months of interaction, it’s likely some of their real life personality will bleed through (as Freud said, “Betrayal oozes at every pore”) and maybe – just maybe – you can begin to build up a picture of the “real person.”

    Meantime, I get by quite happily knowing my friends are whatever and whoever they appear to be in SL and don’t worry myself about what or who they are in real life.

    Of course, even in real life, can you ever “know” someone? Mmmmh.

  11. Tom Joad

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    @An Attorney

    The dissonance in your post is astounding, Mr. “Lawyer”.

  12. Ben

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    Far as I’m concerned, if you’re gonna get to know someone that close that their size, etc come into play, then you should get to know them better before you meet them…but that kinda defeats the SL basis of “U wan 2 fuck” “y3s do m3!”

  13. Ben

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    Baron Cuttlesmith von Blogharder, Esqu, MD

    they’re referred to as ‘clubbers’

  14. templeton peck

    Jan 2nd, 2009

    “But even with profile pages showing very much of the person behind the avatar, I would say that who we meet on SL are more real than the people we meet in the physical world.”

    Are you fucking retarded? Have you ever been outside of your basement? You shoudl really seek professional help.

  15. Steve01 Denimore

    Jan 3rd, 2009

    We are only as real in SL as we decide to be…however the more time we spend with someone the more we learn about them, or at least what they tell us…

  16. mootykips

    Jan 7th, 2009

    Heh..and what if…we’re actually bugs..and the universe is a massive tablecloth..I mean..think about it dude….*hits the bong*

  17. Jessica Holyoke

    Jan 8th, 2009

    When I wrote this piece, I believed that the comments would prove my point. I could point out the venom, but instead, I will point out that Gwyn came over and talked highly of her friend when she didn’t have a reason to that I see or had any blatant ulterior motive. That’s why Gwyn is a sweetheart and someone I am very glad I met on SL.

    With the world being what it is, watch someone pop on here to say that it was all very cynical and evil.

  18. Just laughing My Ass Off

    Jan 19th, 2009

    I love the irony here, that all you life-lacking griping twats are oblivious to.

    Your comments, each and every one, prove the very point of the article. You show your real, pathetic, bitching, whining, useless insecure selves here by posting how stupid Jess is for her article. Truth is, Jess is most likely the smartest of us all, and she certainly proved her point without even ever having to post a comment. You predictable trolls all proved her point for her like the bleating sheep you are. Have a lovely day.

  19. muddybunny

    Feb 17th, 2011

    I think we are at a stage technologically where we have to redefine friendship. I have RL friends and I have friends I’ve never met, and maybe never will meet. It doesn’t mean I value them any less than my RL friends, I just value them differently. I made friends at school, I have made friends in pubs, I’ve made friends in the workplace, and now I make friends in forums, and in Second Life, they are as real to me as the friends I only stay in contact with on the phone. I’m just a bit more careful as to who I “friend” in SL; but most of the people I’ve met are fun loving, and caring individuals who may like running around with swords, and killing dragons, but who am I to judge, it’s better than what a lot of people do in RL.

    At the end of the day, no one has to join Second Life. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m having lots of fun and not a PF in sight.

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