We all have our reasons for being on Second Life ™ (SL). Some of us are online 24/7, some less frequently, interacting with other avatars, or sitting quietly in a cozy corner listening to music. Stareyes Galaxy chatted with avatars from all around the globe asking the deceptively simple question. “What is SL all about?”
One of the first avatars I talked with was from Egypt. “Second Life has a special meaning for us Egyptians,” she said – and then it really dawned on me what that is. Ancient Egyptians preserved the bodies of the deceased for their journey to the great beyond. Second Life today of course is concurrent with our real lives (RLs), and The Second Life Enquirer regularly runs features on the parallelisms between SL and RL. I went to clubs and other popular spots to get answers, and here is what I was able to find out.
I met some Mexican ladies, AraGuapa and Marthaana at Disco Club the Planet. At the time there was
Latin-style music on, and the girls were grooving on the floor, listening to the tunes. Helped with translators (please excuse the ambiguities), I was able to ask the question of the day. AraGuapa answered: “SL is good to find a disco with music in Spanish.” She said she has met people from all over the world through SL. “I have to use the translator. But when I write to friends in France and Scotland I have learned a few words.” Marthaana echoed the virtues of SL as a medium for language instruction: “In SL I have little but every time I can understand more English without a translator and understand what I say and not just write.” She said that there are some sims where people get angry if people speak in Spanish. Therefore it is important to know places where to go to where there is no discrimination. ArGuapa further said: “Not going back to that place where I was banned... There should be no discrimination in SL... must be cordiality, respect... language is no barrier to friends anywhere in the world... have peace and harmony in SL!”
I met Sean, a Yorkshire native at FogBound blues club. He crystallized the meaning of SL as a succinct aphorism. “Enjoy all its varied facets to the full and treat others with the respect you expect yourself.” He continued: “It’s simple, really: enjoy the music, great creativity on offer, and get to meet nice people from all around the world. In SL I can afford to dress how I like, I am a great dancer and I never put on pounds round my waist. I can be the guy I imagine I am in my head.”
Moustaki Galaxy is often seen playing the piano at the recently relocated New York Jazz ballroom. He said: “I enjoy talking with people, not with virtual personalities. That is why I don’t talk much.” He regrets that it is difficult to meet interesting people, and as he likes jazz and soft music, he likes to sit at the piano and listen. In real life, he is from Greece. Asking the question about what SL is all about, he replied: “SL is a smart game and a good chat room. If someone thinks that is a... ’life,’ I think they are wrong. It is a good way to spend time... but there is only ONE life.”
I met Sjöfn, a Swedish girl, running on the treadmill at the Avatar Fitness Club. Her view to the merits of SL was: “SL can be a lot - some can use it as a simulator - training for life – cognitive behavioral therapy. You know how it works, if you’re afraid of going over a square you start with looking at the square then take one step into and so on.” Of her experiences in SL she wanted to highlight one she has done both in real and Second Life – climbing the Eiffel Tower.
In conclusion it appears that many people indeed said they use SL as a means to learn new languages and to develop the language skills in the languages they have already learned. My Egyptian friend said in our chat that for her it is easier to embrace parts of the social culture that can be very much a taboo in everyday Egyptian life. BDSM and rape sims for example would be totally unacceptable. Asking what would happen if her RL friends were to find out how she spends her time, she replied: “[For them] it is just a game like any game on computer. They don’t realise the changes that they can do in personality and new ideas that can flow in.” She also said: “The new generation mentality is changed and they are eager for new culture acceptation.” So, in fact, as is the case with many other new technology developments and social media, in addition to being a socializing network or a learning medium, SL can be an agent of change. How we use it is up to us. I hope more people will embrace SL to evoke the best in people and to make a positive, lasting impression on the real world.