Op/Ed: Avatars Have No Feelings

by Alphaville Herald on 04/06/10 at 11:52 am

by FoxM Ember

Is love an emotion or is it a choice? If actions speak louder than words, then an act of love towards someone is profoundly louder than simply uttering those three little words. So, is love here in SL a feeling or an action, a noun or a verb? Although we each must define it for ourselves, I believe that those who limit their understanding of love to a “feeling,” are exponentially more likely to go through their second life, and possibly their real one, jumping from one relationship to the next, like a frog leaping from one Lillie pad to another as soon as it feels that it’s beginning to sink. Is it sinking though?


Such is the life of a great many of us here in SL who define love as pure emotion, hopping from one partner to another, from one “once-in-a-lifetime” romance to another, because at some point all feelings wane. There’s an ebb and flow to our life, real and second. One day the tides rolls in, the next it rolls out, but the ocean is unchanged…life goes on. Couples fall in love, passion and romance dominate their feelings, and many eventually make that lifelong commitment in real life, or partner with another in second life. Then, one day someone wakes up, often after having built days, or weeks, months or years of memories with their partner, and realize they are no longer “in” love with the person lying besides them. What happened? When did the tide go out?

Consider that it might be more truthful to wake up next to your partner and say, “Gee…the tide is out, so I choose to stop loving you.” True love is lasting…isn’t it…shouldn’t it be? How is true love even possible if it is dependant or even affected by our ever-changing feelings? We all have the Providence-given right to pursue true happiness in life, real or virtual, but if your happiness is dependant upon the ebb and flow of feelings, aren’t you destined to not only receive pain and sadness, but to give it?

By making love dependant on emotion, we conveniently remove the burden – or responsibility – of choice from ourselves. We become mere spectators on the beach, watching the tide roll in and feeling “in” love one moment, then – looking away for a moment – we turn back and see only the slimy, green decaying seaweed and driftwood lying on the shore, discarded by the ocean. “But, I want the sound of white horses relentlessly crashing into the shoreline, the passionate dance of waves mixing, churning in a beautiful mosaic of blues and greens and whites…and…now, it’s gone. I just turned around for a moment, and the ocean receded…my feelings aren’t the same for you anymore…I don’t love you anymore. Maybe I never did”

How can love which is based on emotion grow in this place, where so many people hide behind cartoonish caricatures of themselves, and oft hide behind the total opposite of who they truly are? Yet, many are surprised when they find themselves left alone on the shore, shivering and cold, and alone.


And it’s not just the newbie, who is susceptible to the lure of passion, romance and the illusion of true love, all too often foisted upon them by malicious avatars – predators seeking shallow masochistic fun, or interested in scamming lindens (not that I’m still bitter…at all); but there are also casualties among those of us more seasoned in this virtual world. Those who have guarded their hearts and resisted for so long the allure of a SL relationship in favor of finding joy in the technical mechanics, and creativity and non-emotional entertainment this world offers, can quickly discover what “feels” like true love, only to discover that it was nothing more than a daytrip to the beach for someone else, or even for themselves. Whether jumping into a relationship here naively or easing into one cautiously, eventually if it is love we seek, we all wind up as vulnerable and exposed as a day-one newbie. While the fallout of a real life divorce obviously has far greater consequences, if you dare to truly love someone in this second world, make no mistake, the emotional pain you put yourself at risk of experiencing will not be virtual.

Avatars have no feelings; but the people behind them do. To love another in this blended reality requires no less than becoming emotionally vulnerable to them, to show yourself and thereby become as exposed as you are in any real life relationship, with an increased likelihood of enjoying a picnic on the beach alongside the love of your second life in one moment, and the next, finding yourself alone with nothing but sand in your synthetic sandwich. Blecch!

Now, before you judge this writer a skeptic, let me confess to being a believer in true love, and to being a hopeless romantic by nature, and by choice. I am also “in” love with someone, both by nature and by choice – naturally attracted to her in almost every way imaginable, to her physical beauty, to her personality, her intellect, her creativity, and to the person I am when I am with her. I want to be a better man for her, not a better avatar…a better man. I love her with my feelings…yes – but I’ve also made a conscious decision to love her, and to willingly act in that way. I choose to stay in love her, whether the tide is high or low this day, it no longer matters.

Otis Redding wrote and recorded one of my favorite blues songs 3 days before his death in 1967. While many different interpretations of the lyric’s meanings exist, I think they fit in the context of this topic. In it he sings,

“Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun

I’ll be sittin’ here when evening comes,

Watching the ships roll in

And then I watch them roll out again…”

So, my love…I am here, sitting on the beach with you today, and I will be here for all the tomorrows to come. As long as you’ll have me, I promise not to allow any sand into your synthetic sandwich.


38 Responses to “Op/Ed: Avatars Have No Feelings”

  1. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Jun 4th, 2010

    >FoxM Ember

    >Fox Member


  2. Zeta Weather

    Jun 4th, 2010

    I believe the website you are looking for is this way —> http://www.furaffinity.net

    Around here all we talk about is Woodbury.

  3. Ajax Manatiso

    Jun 4th, 2010

    I enjoyed this piece very much. As an avi who has been partnered over 2 years and associates with other avis who, as well, have been partnered for a long time, I really appreciate your piece and wish you would make Romance in SL a regular feature here. Too much stuff about how griefers are misunderstood — how about the people who come to SL to, oh gee, maybe unwind and relax with good company???

  4. Pappy Enoch

    Jun 4th, 2010

    I are a-cryin’ in my fake beer rite now.

    Makes it last longer.

    If’n you, gentul reeders, am like the folks what Fox talks about, keep yo’ po’ head up!

    They am more fake gals and boys in the fake ocean, like the feller done said that time.

  5. General Drama

    Jun 4th, 2010

    “Love” in SL is pixel lust over pixel sex on pixel beds, followed by departnering and estalking on one’s elawn.

    btw Ajax, busted up e-romances are actually the largest source of griefing on the grid, just nonorganized and generally pathetic. This generally occurs when an ineffectual 30 year old virgin insecure about homoerotic tendencies finds out his pixel girlfriend is really a dude.

  6. Fox

    Jun 4th, 2010

    General, I take it from your post (witty as it was) that you do not beleive that true love can exist in SL. Am I correct?

  7. Pappy Enoch

    Jun 4th, 2010

    What the heck am “homoironic tendencies”?

    Hoo whee, General. The Army done taught you some rite big words.

    “30 year old virgin”? Hell, you ain’t visited Enoch Holler. We ain’t even got 15 year old virgins.

    You make one dang good point, tho. I sho hopes all them pretty gals with busted hearts don’t start griefin’ me. They would be a line longer’n a politician’s trail o’ lies.

  8. Susan

    Jun 4th, 2010

    Nice column Fox and welcome back to the writing world..

    Love in SL can be so many different things to every single avi in there. It is not necessarily defined purely based on emotions or actions, it can be one or the other or both.

    An individual’s interpretation of love can vary greatly also, some go into SL to seek ‘love’, some go in not expecting it and find themselves with the greatest love of their lives.

    Whilst you talk about being ‘emotionally vulnerable’ to someone when you ‘love’ them in SL, this is entirely dependent on you. Your heart, whether virtual or real, is yours to give, and to be completely in love with someone, you choose to give that heart away, to your love, in the hope that they will guard it, protect it and truly and honestly love it for eternity.

    True love should be lasting, of course, but over the course of life, even a virtual one, true love rarely comes. One thing about true love, is, that once you have it, you certainly know how different it feels and it never ever leaves you.

    I don’t believe love is a choice and that we ‘choose’ to stay in love with someone or not. Once someone has touched your heart, they never leave. It may not be the full-blown, I-would-do-anything-for-you-even-get-up-at-crazy-times-of-the-night-to-see-you-on-SL type love (lol!) but I don’t believe that we can dictate to our emotions of when they should be switched on and off.

    More thoughts as they come to hand…

  9. MachineCode

    Jun 5th, 2010

    This is all very emotional and poetic… at least until you start talking about Second Life, which apparently turns human emotions into a math problem a fifth grader could solve.

    It boils down to people enacting their fantasies upon the grid, which are almost always strawmen personas that have nothing to do with the real person. There’s no human connection, just a character on the other’s screen. No matter how much time you spent on your avatar, how much money you wasted in SL, you’re not unlike a toy your mutual masturbation partner got bored with.

    The point is, if you’re trying to find love in a fantasy world, ha ha you delusional idiot.

  10. Makenzie Irling

    Jun 5th, 2010

    Does anyone find Pappy Enoch funny at all? I mean anyone other than himself? He is clearly very amused by his Walter Brennan impersonation.

  11. Farmetta Funster

    Jun 5th, 2010

    Good writin’, Mr. Fox! My heartstrings set to twangin ‘pon readin’ that there piece. You ever write one o’ them romance novels? Fergit Fabio on the cover, they should put you right there, sittin’ n lookin’ out at the water, all dreamy-like.

    You keep writin’ here, you hear?

    Awww, Pappy…tarnation…surely that heart of yore’s warn’t broke? I got Sion chicken in the pot tonite! Come on over and sit a spell. I’ll pour ya some good shine and you can tell me yore troubles. Mr. Fox could come too, and bring his purty lady!

  12. grace acer

    Jun 5th, 2010

    I guess it depends on whether or not you can channel real energy and emotion in this world. Some people can’t and can’t imagine that anyone else could.

  13. LittleLostLInden

    Jun 6th, 2010

    If you really want to know about avatars without feelings, you should be interviewing bots, like the kind recently discovered at famous Amethyst Rosencrans sim (Sensations competitor of Xcite!:


    Traffic manipulation bots in the flesh:


  14. foxm

    Jun 6th, 2010

    If there was ever any doubt…let it now be dispelled…
    “It’s a crazy world.”
    “Someone oughta’ sell tickets.”
    “……shoot…I’d buy one. “

  15. Prudence

    Jun 6th, 2010

    Uh. SL love, lust and sex are so alluring because a whole lot of people write them according to script. That includes the tragic, the drama and the soapy. The perfect girlfriend who turned out to be a man, the perfect boyfriend who is a spotty underage kid with too much romance in his eyes, the only love of my life but I will not leave my RL partner for you honey, the woman I will build my suburban MacMansion with and never leave socks around the living room. We can imagine what we want because in SL feelings or actions we have no responsibility – even when we swear the opposite- and not even towards ourselves.

  16. Ψ

    Jun 6th, 2010

    God, if you’re there please end the lives of these pussy guys crying about emotions and feelings. Especially the ones crying about video game friends. Or at least make them fucking grow a pair.

  17. Muziekfreak1980 miles

    Jun 6th, 2010

    Mmmm well ive been over 3 years on the grid now.
    I do see there is allot of drama evolving around the word “love”and “partnering”

    I partnered 3 years ago with a american, by now she is my rl wife…
    I mean things are always in your own hands. True love is hard to find even in a virtual world.

    The nice sir above here…
    You never laughed in sl either then…That is a form of emotion. I do agree that some are totally overdone on the emotions. But as I see it 90% of the sl community are ppl with “damaged” emotions/minds.
    The seek in sl the way out of reality even if that is for just few hours.

    Ppl are not robots, ppl have a mind of there own…in rl i saw a girl of 17 years old getting driven over by a semi (poor girl did not survive)
    i did not feel much of a shock, or sadness or whatever…
    When my dog died i cried my eyes out…

    My point is, you get used to someone for a certain amount of time. That someone is behind a screen, that does not mean you cannot fall in love with that person. How many ppl these days meet a girl in the bar compared to the tons of date-sites.

    Its a new world if you ask me, a world were you can dance with someone on the other end of the world and easy connect.
    It is just a shame that many ppl (men are mostly guilty and yes i did my research as a female aswell) are mostly pigs and ignorant as hell even pathetic.

    Trying to abuse woman mentally….
    It is pathetic aswell when you get a im with entire “hello my name is hank lets fuck and cam and show me your pussy” well sorry.
    There REAL humans behind that screen, humans that not ALL see this as a game.

    Respect that too..cannot do that..then simply leave it for what it is. There will always be a camp that purely uses sl to game (kindah lame seen its not that spectacular on that area) and a camp that actually see this as a life(styl) thing.

  18. nanny ogg

    Jun 6th, 2010

    My avatar is the person inside me, beyond RL constraints of location, age, income, biology etcetera. I’m able to shine in Second Life. I make art and build waterfalls and flirt and dance and say what I really think. You get what you put into SL. I put the best of my imagination into my avatar and the things I build with her.

    Real life is a map, informed by the data we gather using our senses, but assembled and existing separately inside each brain. The map is not the territory. Second life is another map we can build using a different set of filters and sensors. The person behind the avatar, the person inside each human brain, can connect with another person regardless of the platform or the map we both agree to use.

    Other comments to your post reflect a wide span of intelligence and empathy. This span exists inside and outside of SL. Morons and cynical assholes who think the possession of a pair is somehow essential are a dime a dozen. If you hang out (hehe) in an orgy sim, you’ll find one group of folks. if you hang out where you can learn to build or script or make art, you’ll find different people. Drama exists where people value drama. There are worlds without drama within SL and avatars created by people who conduct their real and second lives with integrity and compassion.

  19. Ψ

    Jun 6th, 2010


    The name is Psi you illiterate, uneducated, emofuckwit. You can use alternate definitions to try to bring me down to your pathetic state of existence all you’d like. The fact is when you read that, as did all other carbon based sentient beings with an IQ just slightly higher then their shoe size, what was extrapolated was someone who engages is unnecessarily fostered grief or sadness.

    Well I do wish your well on your thoughtless endeavor to sign away half of everything you own plus possible alimony and or child support (assuming of course you decided to let your DNA leak into her so extra chromosomed crumb crunchers crawl out of the only pink meat wad you ever gazed upon outside of having to pay for said service) because you got a boner over some butter-faced skank’s pixelated avatar and said it was love.

    You want to cry, fine. Cry me a fucking river, just don’t force me to listen to listen to it after your wife decides to take everything and leave you in the “If you lived here you’d be home by now” apartments by the freeway after she decides your neighbor’s dick feels better in her than yours or when you finish reading my response and realize how you ruined your live with video games.

  20. Eva Ryan

    Jun 6th, 2010

    Come on now, tell us how you really feel. Don’t hold back.

  21. Johnny

    Jun 6th, 2010

    The attraction of a romantic liason in SL is, as Woody Allan said apropos of masturbation, it’s sex with someone you love.

    Since it is impossible to have anything but the shallowest of connections with another avatar, it follows that when one professes to be “in love” with that avatar, what one is really in love with is an internalised love-object that one is projecting on to one’s supposed paramour. This happens in RL too of course, but usually not to the same degree, since the reality of the lover’s personality tends to intrude. In SL by contrast, one’s partner is effectively a blank screen ready to receive whatever fantasies one desires to project.  

    Such projections are not much of a basis for a solid relationship, since they can easily be transferred to another target, so it is hardly surprising that most SL affairs are transient and unfulfilling. However there will be some people who find dealing with the complexities of a RL relationship too daunting, and for whom a relatively risk-free SL romance will be an appealing alternative. 

  22. grace

    Jun 6th, 2010

    I’m pretty sure I can’t have actual sex with an avatar, otherwise you are right on with the Woody Allen thing. Physical element actually completely removed, you might have to rely on traits more cerebral

  23. grace

    Jun 6th, 2010

    ….and evidently if you take it straight to the gutter and express yourself with vulgar language it’s because you’re emotionally well adjusted and very brave, big guy; Do females also have to live down to this standard or are they allwed to express themselves outside of sexual…

  24. Ψ

    Jun 6th, 2010

    ^^^^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^^^

  25. Ψ

    Jun 6th, 2010


    However there will be some people who find dealing with the complexities of a RL relationship too daunting, and for whom a relatively risk-free SL romance will be an appealing yet sad and pathetic alternative.


  26. Mala

    Jun 7th, 2010

    Totally agree with Johnny on this one:

    However there will be some people who find dealing with the complexities of a RL relationship too daunting, and for whom a relatively risk-free SL romance will be an appealing yet sad and pathetic alternative.

    The article sounds like the ramblings of a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis and trying to find what he fails to keep in RL, in SL. Any relationship described as ‘true love’ in SL will never be so, and will never provide you with much but a false sense of fulfillment. The relationships are fake, the feelings are fake.

    Its a bit sad when men confuse ‘love’ with ‘sex’.

  27. pepper

    Jun 7th, 2010

    Hmmm. Let’s be very clear here.

    SL is one way to meet intelligent people who share common interests and values. Depending on the relationship, it might move to further communication outside of SL in text, chat, voice, email, photos, FB, Twitter, EVE online, and maybe even real life. Depending on where your friends are, a real life wedding might have its reception in SL. As long as both people are very clear about what they are looking for and who they are, it shouldn’t matter where they met, or if it was a “meet cute.” People who want fantasy generally only get that. People who want the real thing have to be very careful to not settle for fantasy.

  28. Muziekfreak1980 miles

    Jun 7th, 2010

    @ Ψ

    You what is really a lack of intellect?

    Tying bad gram spelling of a none native english to intellect.
    Then pretend here you can make a statement with using half a dictionary of difficulties, and offcourse feel totally offende by a non offense posting towards you…

    IQ??? i seriously doubt you even know what your talking about atm..
    But do enjoy you lil boxed in world Ψ <—-you must feel like prince or something using a symbol as name.

    Funpart is the crying part….your the one guilty of that one. Have a superday!

  29. Muziekfreak1980 miles

    Jun 7th, 2010

    Forgot to add this..

    Before filling in the blanks for me…
    I met my rl wife inworld…3 years together, got a daughter ectra.
    That you choose the insides of your palmhand, and got beaten by your mom developing a hate towards the word love. Does not i do so too…

    The more i read that stupid ass statement Ψ you just made..the more i laugh maybe im to “dutch” for your bs. lolz…or just like you stated before to stupid.

    Atleast im not so mindfucked like you are pretending to know someones life in here then to judge ppl as such.

    Your the weak one in the chain amoebe…not me

  30. Ψ

    Jun 8th, 2010


    SICK BURN, BRO! Also l2/proof read and spell check.

  31. Susan

    Jun 9th, 2010

    Wow, your column sure got a few people talking Fox!

    LOL@Muziekfreak1980 & Ψ

    To get back to the column subject and title, avatars most certainly have no feelings. They are 2D and made up of pixels, ‘robots’ in a way. There are a multitude of emotions that one can experience in SL, besides love.

    Whilst avatars have no feelings, the emotion felt when even barely interacting with another avatar can certainly be felt beyond the computer screen. This emotion can be prevalent through any activity – from communicating, exploring, creating, entertaining. Feeling is experiencing. Feeling is broadening your horizons. Feeling is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Something that we do each and every time we ‘log on’ to SL.

    Experiences in SL vary for every single avi in this strange but ever-changing virtual world.

  32. Darkfoxx

    Jun 9th, 2010

    Ψ, I always find it a sign of intellect to *not* have to resort to insults like “illiterate, uneducated, emofuckwit” and such.

    Sl is a fun game, but no matter how real the people behind the other av are, it still is a game. And if you´re looking for love in SL, you´re only going to get hurt. Better avoid that drama alltogether and keep in the back of your head that it´s all a game.

    And emotions of people playing the game might have, do not alter the fact that it is a *game*. (I recently finished a nice horror FPS based upon what happened at Chernobyl in 1986. I definately felt some emotions there. Fear mostly. Doesn’t make it less of a game either does it? Just makes it a good one.)

  33. Darkfoxx

    Jun 9th, 2010

    @ Johhny: People probably fall in love with the person playing the avie, not the avie itself. And of course you can have a much deeper connection with another player then you realize, or, seem to realize.

    What you’re talking about is perhaps physical attraction, and yeah, if there’s nothing more then that, it’s doomed to fail in RL just as well in SL.

    The difference is that between love and lust.

  34. grace acer

    Jun 10th, 2010

    Good discussion. Evidently some people can communicate on many different levels through a medium like SL.. The others cannot conceive this possibility, but seem overly defensive in their comments protecting themselves from what they don’t experience. In RL or SL, there’s always many different forms of communication.

  35. Little Lost Linden

    Jun 10th, 2010

    Linden Lab lays off 30% of staff!!!


    Holy Moly!

  36. Little Lost Linden

    Jun 10th, 2010

    Linden Lab Lays off 30% of staff!

    I was able to get a photo of 3 Linden’s who attended the memorial today:


  37. hobo kelly

    Nov 18th, 2011

    @Muziekfreak1980 Miles, wow you really got them going out of their minds buddy, way to go…

  38. Reader

    Nov 18th, 2011


    doesn’t that constitute patting ones self on the back?

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