Few days ago it was there again. I had visited a near-by living friend to spend some hours in front of her newly installed camino. We hadn’t seen for a while so we quickly immersed in a vivid exchange of our latest news and stories. After a while I mentioned an email I had received from France that day about which I was quite happy as its sender, another friend of mine, all of a sudden had become quiet for about two months. To explain myself I shortly described that person to her as a fellow resident on my home sim in SL [Second Life], with whom I have spent much time on a daily basis for about four months. He is a friend from the very first days and it was him who has brought me to the island sim that has become my home.
This guy is married in RL [‘real life‘], a father of two children and loving his family. Now coincidence played on him he met a girl in SL he fell in love with. Another french. They passed much time with each other for several weeks and communicated via voice chat many hours a day. Finally he realized he has feelings for that girl and the strong wish arising he wants to meet her in RL threw him into such a strong conflict that he left SL. He felt he was cheating on his RL wife.
Now this guy has been a hardcore user, online every day for several hours. Much of that time though he has spent building, getting to understand LSL [Linden Scripting Language] and creating Particle Art. Whenever I came on, he usually was there already. I had doubted we would hear from him at all anymore after he had been offline and silent for eight weeks. Therefore his shout via email that day was big joy.
My RL friend in front of her camino moved in her seat, threw a long Blick at me and when her right foot began to nerveously whip I laughed out loud.
-You’re just like Tito [the cat]. Your foot works antenna-like sending out information just like his bail does. C’mon, let it out!
-I just don’t understand how people can take that as real, she replied. [Having made her listen to my SL adventures already often before, as I jokingly use to entitle what I experience and learn in the grid,] she goes on,
–I mean i know one passes much time with the others on a daily basis, communicates, exchanges things and thoughts and stuff, gets to know the other… but still its not real! Thats completely different than seeing the other in front of oneself!
I sort of began whipping my foot too although I dont really do this. I tried to argue by another example, aiming to make her understand her how much and widely spread online reality is perceived to be as real as offline reality, which was situated “far away” from SL within the MySpace networks. A piece of news I coincidentally had come across when visiting my mom earlier that day, who in contrast to me owns a television set [I know I even should have one, but I was lazy in that regard and admit I am still]: Suicide following a case of Internet Mobbing.
Thirteen year old Megan in the U.S. had found her first love on the internet with a guy named Josh via her MySpace account. All of a sudden his flirty and caring way of talking [means writing in this case] to her changed to an offensive and dismissing style. To shorten it up, the news said she was so psyched from that communication with Josh, she committed suicide hanging herself on her wardrobe.
-Aint that an absolute matter of sign online reality is really perceived as real, I asked her.
-Yeah but ain’t it just prooving what i say, namely that its absolutely crazy to perceive that as real? And that people should not..?
-Let me end this story.
It turned out, the news goes on, MySpace account Josh had been written by a former female friend of Megan and that former friend’s mother living in the same street.
-You see this is an extreme example that points in the same direction you do. But still it is kind of ignorant to deny this communication has not been real. Someone has died.
I try another example she is more familiar with. For a living I nowerdays work for a car rental service as a call center agent coordinating car rentals mostly via telephone all over germany. This is something i also do talk about to her often and I’m there almost as long as I am in SL–thinking about the means of self-identification that willingly or unwillingly come to expression in actions and statements people perform and give when communicating with them on a regular basis over a time of several months. [Identity that leaks through.]
I describe her how there are several persons out of the crowd of people I talk to on the phone at work begin to chrystallize. One gets to know each other. Personalities begin to shape–or an image, at least. One shares memories, two slices of each other’s histories are partly overlapping. I havent seen any of those people I talk to ever. Still I communicate with them several times a week. When doing so I communicate via voice channel–as many avatars in SL do meanwhile–I pick up the acoustic interface with my hand, press it against my ear, with the oether hand I use my keyboard equivalent and type in code which is the phone number to connect.
-Applying your concept of reality means saying all those folks I communicate with within my work routine are not real.
-Yeah.. OK. But I didnt mean it that way!
I ended up discussing at this point and hoped I had made her more attentive for implied categorizing. For myself I recalled one day way back in May when I had learned about what a prim is.