When you go In Second Life © (SL), it is quite clear that the time spent is taken away from one’s real life (RL); this being the minimum effect of SL on RL, what other consequences on one’s RL are there due to various encounters in SL?
Stareyes Galaxy polled avatars on this subject, and also asked an expert for an assessment.
I had the pleasure of discussing the subject with Hondo Slade (Lone Wolf), who had a heart-breaking RL story, and thing or two to say about services to veterans in SL. In his opinion, the strongest effects of SL on RL are in relationships.
SLE: So, you mean, when you are with someone in SL, it will carry over to RL?
Hondo: Yes, it does. Have you ever had a partner that you trusted so much that you start to talk about your RL to your companion?
Hondo told of his experience with a girl in a neighboring country, with whom he fell in love. After two years of dating in SL and in RL, she dropped him cold. After a few months, he’s still depressed and gets less on SL than when he was in this relationship. “Bottom line: [in] relationships just like in the real world, [breakups] hurt after many years of being together.”
Hondo: Nope, will never separate.
SLE: In your volunteer work for veterans on Second Life, is there an aspect of it that carries over to your RL? Do you, or other veterans have real-life benefits of going on SL?
Hondo: Yeah, “post-traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD). I learned how to deal with that. A few veterans had utilized the service from SL. [This] virtual world aims to help soldiers battling PTSD.
Always curious, I decided to check out the Play Lounge that we recently featured on SLE. I had a chat with Tatty Hamer, Milena Manx, and Trudy Taur, who share a close friendship amongst each other. Trudy is in fact marrying her SL partner in real life, most likely an event worthy of a story in itself! They all agreed on RL being affected by SL.
Tatty: Of course! No way to keep it out of RL, whatever people say!
Milena: Yes it does!
Trudy: I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t!
SLE: In what way does it affect RL?
Milena: We all have RL feelings we can’t just turn them on and off when we switch the laptop off.
Trudy: When I’m at work, I constantly think of my SL hubby. I get distracted on my job and I think of my sisters, are they well are they happy!
Milena: I log on every day to chat with these girls and other friends who have become RL friends to me. I talk to these girls more than I talk to my RL friends, I think. Once you form a close bond with people in SL they are friends for life – well, the ones we trust are. We are always here for one another. I now see these girls as my RL family. Also were all so close, if I have issues RL, I share with them and they help me through it. Same goes for them.
Tatty: [SL] turned [Trudy’s] life upside down! It can improve RL, and can hurt it!
Tatty then described her breakup with her SL love with whom she thought she was going to make it in RL, and of the sacrifices she made in RL because of this relationship. “I was broken. These girls held me together, and my SL bro. They are my SL family and my RL family I choose.”
I experienced a feeling of a very strong bond between the threesome, which they confirmed. They even get on Whatsapp if they don’t see one of the three on SL in a while, to check on her.
SLE: So. If this happens, do you think it's the emotions that carry over back and forth, only, or are there other aspects of your SL life that wedge their way into RL?
Tatty: Emotions/feelings. That’s what it’s about really, and personalities and just “a click”, you can’t switch “a click” off. You can’t switch love off, friend or romantic.
Milena: Exactly, once you have bonded with someone, how can you switch off? To them, RL feelings are always gonna be there. You care about people on here even though you have never met them. You have got to know their personalities; you develop strong feelings for one another.
SLE: Do you meet in RL?
Trudy: We haven’t, but are planning to in the near future
Tatty: We will go to Trudy’s RL wedding. I will throw her down the aisle!
SLE: Thank you all! Is there anything else that comes to mind with regard to SL affecting your RL?
Tatty: Money. Uploading gets so expensive in SL now. It can also affect your time with RL people ‘cause you miss your SL friends too much.
Trudy: Yes - can’t wait to rush back on!
Tatty: I will add that when you hurt from SL, that hurt affects RL really badly. I never wanted my kids see me cry and they did ‘cause of SL. Yeah, I am a sop - I was devastated.
SLE: So you think SL can affect your RL relationships?
Tatty: Definitely! SL can also put you in good or bad mood and that translates then into RL.
I met Angel La Femme at a concert, and we decided to have a chat on RL effects of SL at a quiet pub afterwards.
SLE: What would you say is the most poignant way that RL is affected by SL?
Angel: You wanna know if your friends are okay, and wanna talk to them.
SLE: So, friendships carry over from SL to RL?
Angel: Yes, some do for sure.
SLE: Do you meet SL'ers in RL?
Angel: No in all honesty I haven’t been on that road yet… Most people you meet in SL are from different countries, so no hopping in cars for a meeting.
SLE: How about "relationships", do you have experience on those?
Angel: Grins; well, Angel never had any "relationship" as you call it but over the years she developed at lot of close friendships.
SLE : Aside from friendships, what other things might follow you to real life?
Angel: I always had an interest for other cultures and this is a better way to learn about that. A simple example is cooking. Recipes, getting on voice and cooking together. And some recipes are really good. We even eat together. It’s kinda like being together and sharing a glass of wine.
SLE: Are you able to do it on SL, or do you use other software, like Skype?
Angel: The voice on SL isn’t that good, so mostly you log in, put your avatars together and call on Skype.
SLE: Do you have anything else that comes to mind on RL being affected by SL?
Angel: The smile that comes on my face when my SL Friends cross my mind!
Here’s what DoctorKaren Kanto (PhD), a clinical pshychologist in real life, has to say.
SLE: When people say "My SL is SL and my RL is RL" do you think this is possible?
Dr. Kanto: Long ago, a social sciences professor said there was a single answer to all questions in social science: "It depends". How one defines SL and RL respectively bears greatly on how one interprets the question. I think what most people mean is that the events and activities of SL are not intended or desired to interact with or interfere with their RL.
SLE: And, how well do you think they succeed in the separation?
Dr. Kanto: It is, of course, true that the human mind behind the avatar in SL and the body in RL is the same. It depends on the person as to how well they can and do maintain boundaries. Some people can keep work and home separate, some cannot. Some people can be friends with two people who are fighting each other, some cannot. Some people can have a significant existence in SL that interacts little with RL, some cannot. And some have no desire to... there are RL couples who are couples in SL.
SLE: Interviewees for this article have exclaimed wholeheartedly that their SL friends are RL friends as well, and what they do in SL will be almost the same in RL. The opposite argument is however present, especially among people going into relationships. How well do you think can emotions be kept separate?
Dr. Kanto: Justme and I have been together for over five years, but I am in a long term partnered/married relationship in RL. RL does not know about my SL, and Justme only knows some about my RL relationship. My emotions are directed to individuals situationally, and my commitment in each world is solid. In many ways, my ability to operate in SL alleviates some pressures on RL to supply some of my emotional needs. That I can be and do what I cannot or will not in RL, makes SL a considerable relief valve.
SLE: Are you saying that for one who has a good self-image, it is possible to achieve a separation?
Dr. Kanto: Yes, if someone is secure, they can bring that security to SL, and they can maintain functional boundaries between the two. What happens often, I think, is that people act out their RL conflicts in SL... and those typically do not go well.
SLE: So, the interviewees who exclaim: "No way can you separate the two" only are expressing their views which cannot be generalized?
Dr. Kanto: It depends on how they mean separate. I am me, in both worlds, but any "me" is a very complex mix of many parts, some of which may be contradictory, and how the various facets of "me" manifest will vary.
SLE: Now, the interesting thing is how you deal with SL conflicts going back to RL, when you turn off your computer. Do you have any advice to our readers?
Dr. Kanto: I am not sure the situation is much different from any situation where you move from one environment to another. Frustrations at work will "come home" but ideally will not impair home life. I think there is a subtext that is not being addressed that does confuse this issue: When people enter SL, there is a tendency for people to experience emotions in a magnified way. The emotionality tends to be faster, hotter and shorter lived. And this is due, I think, to the fact that, even in SL, the data stream is constricted. Human information sharing bandwidth - you would have to depend on shortcuts and metaphors and innuendos to achieve the communication. But these all depend on the receiver accurately interpreting the sent message - and there is too little information being exchanged to be sure that the messaging is working right!
It is obvious that for the majority of avatars, not only is SL an extension of their pursuits in RL, but RL becomes an extension of our SL exploits. Some avatars can handle the separation of the two realms of existence better than others. When I close my computer after submitting this article, I will already be planning my next assignment – where to go, whom to meet, and what photographs I need to be able to shoot. I also think of people I have interviewed, and how their day is going. I think we are quite all right, thinking this way.