The virtual world has a way of sucking a person in and spitting them out years later with their head spinning. Some move on to bigger things while others continue the virtual path in search of something that needs to be fulfilled in their life.
My inspiration for this article comes from a friend I recently spoke to about his virtual world experience and how he feels he let 6 years slip away with a snap of his fingers. I can certainly relate to how years can fly by in a virtual world but I also think that unless you are involved in something great that leads to positive changes in your real life, the virtual world can be very fulfilling or for some, a waste of time that they could be spending in the real world.
People involved in virtual worlds spend their time doing an assortment of things that satisfy their creativity and personal needs. Some venture around Second Life in search of companionship because it may be difficult for them in the real world due to social awkwardness or anxiety. Others come from loveless marriages or live in loneliness and are looking for that feeling of being loved and needed. Those things can be found in Second life, but does it mean there are real emotions involved or just an illusion that takes away from the words “living life”?
The only thing that cannot be bought or reversed is time.
Can a balance be made? Is it possible to have two lives and still have time for “living life to the fullest, without looking back at years gone by with nothing to show for it?
Other people that are involved in Second Life have mastered a balance between the real world and Second Life. They use the virtual world platform to network and socialize in a 3d world with friends and even meet with relatives that live in different states or even countries. The emotional bonds in these situations are real because these people know each other in the physical world. They use second life as a communication technology that allows them to get involved in activities while voicing, sharing photos, working and existing on the same platform. Many also use communication tools like Skype video chat, streaming and messenger to stay in touch.
Business in Second Life can be a full time job to others. This translates into a considerable amount of time spent seated at a computer desk and in a trance from the real world happenings around them. Unless the person is making enough money to sustain their financial needs in the real world, it is just a supplemental income.
I set out to see what some avatars that have spent 2-7 years in Second Life say about their time spent and how they balance both worlds.
Lanai: How long have you been in Second Life?
Dave: 1 yr 4 months
KEVIN M THOMAS: Since 10/2007
Kiana: A little over 4 years.
Geo: 3 years
Sonicity: 7 years
Shiran: 3 years
Krissy: Since 10/19/2006
Lanai: What do you do in Second Life?
Dave: I take advantage of a few options. In SL, like RL I like to travel / explore. I visit real world places in SL. To me it feels like mini vacations. I also go to movies in SL, sail on the Blake Sea, and spend time on the aviation sims.
Kevin: I am a Musician
Kiana: Own a Modeling Agency, Model, Blog, Dj...
Geo: mostly sex
Sonicity: I am a media maker and educator in real and SL. In Second Life, I create media, report on events and activities for Best of SL Magazine, and have written for other publications. I have also interviewed many celebrities and notables because of Second Life. I also do a lot of cross-over publications into real life. That's been very exciting to connect with people across the world. My real and virtual really create quite a mix reality for me, with both worlds blurring in terms of work colleagues and friendships. For example, my machinima reviews are published in real life academic journals. My work associates are also my best friends.
Shiran: I am the sole owner of Two Moon Paradise and moderator for the American Cancer Society caregiver group
Krissy: I run a suicide/ depression prevention program in SL
Lanai: Do you feel that your time spent here was worth every minute?
Dave: Yes. I've found this experience to be very positive. It is a place to explore your creative side. I am very impressed with the detail of the many sims and the diversity of personalities one comes across.
Kiana: That would depend on the day...lol. I feel that the people I have met here that I am honored to call my family and friends are worth every minute and then some.
Geo: I don’t know
Sonicity: Well not every second. But I don't regret being a resident of a virtual world, and I see myself as a resident - I live here as well as in RL, and work in both worlds fluidly.
Shiran: yes totally
Lanai: How do you balance both RL and SL?
Dave: I believe it's a work in progress - LOL. The key to balance for me is prioritizing your day. Top (3) things for RL. Top (3) things for SL. If you use your time wisely, you can log into SL every day. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Kevin: I perform about 15 shows a week it is a challenge but so very rewarding.
Kiana: RL always comes first, no matter what. I try to schedule activities in SL at times when I know I can be online.
Geo: I go to SL when I am free
Sonicity: It's just life; SL and RL are the same for me.
Shiran: I work in rl and also I work on the sim in sl. my time must be divided between the both. I allow only a certain amount of time to sl so that there is a good balance for me.
Krissy: I find for me I have to get my rl chores done first and then I let myself enjoy my time in sl.
Lanai: Have you made a profit on your investments here?
Dave: I have not gone into a business here. I've joined a few groups, but their mission statements were not to make a profit. I've invested my time here and I've met some amazing people & groups. I've heard people have become successful in some revenue matters. I think that is inspiring.
Kevin: I have. It has been a tough few years recently however there is money to be made it just takes a lot of commitment and constant fan interaction and new song additions.
Kiana: I have made some profit when I was breeding KittyCats. However my shopping far exceeds any profit I make...lol.
Geo: nothing only loss. I made some money working and I lost all on girls and now I am homeless.
Sonicity: In a sense, I have profited via experience that has translated to real life opportunities in my media work, my published books, and ability to teach media in the virtual (now in my own sim as well as now at my university sim (in partnership with the University of Western Australia).
Shiran: No, I was not inclined to make a profit when I started I was and am here specifically to help others and that is exactly what I have done
Krissy: Emotionally/ satisfaction yes. financially no
Lanai: Does your in world income help you in the real world, If so in what way?
Kevin: It helps in a minor way but negligible. I perform online mostly because I love it and I love my friends who support me and the venues. They are most generous with their time and money. I could not ask for a greater group of friends.
Kiana: When I was breeding cats, I did take income out of SL. It was my "mad money" that I used on things that I may not have bought otherwise. (Spa Day)
Geo: not at all
Sonicity: It helps a bit in terms of paying a few tiers, but really my SL has helped my real life career in so many amazing ways.
Lanai: Do you feel you spend enough time with family and friends outside of Second Life?
Dave: Absolutely. My RL is supportive of everything I do. There is enough enough time in your day if you plan correctly. Plus, my SL & RL are an open book. Some people divide that wall but for me it's a revolving door. I do not let drama into my life and both worlds are balanced.
Kiana: Yes, I love my family and friends, and I spend lots of time with them outside of SL.
Sonicity: Time? Well as much as my kids want to spend with me. I love to go the movies and shopping in real life - even the park! Love parks! In real life, I also record and study sound as art and practice. I have a collection of carnival sounds - haha! Just let me know when you want to go, and I'm there. I have a very flexible schedule, and I have worked hard to make it so that way.
Shiran: Yes, I do
Krissy: yes, i do not live close to my family so I skye often with them
Lanai: What advice would you give Sl residents that spent a lot of time in the virtual world?
Dave: Enjoy yourself in Second Life. SL is a wonderful tool use it to your advantage; make it a positive experience. Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
Kevin: Life is about balance. Taking one step at time. Making sure you share enough of yourself with everyone.
Kiana: Never lose sight of your RL. SL is a great place to do so many wonderful things, but at the end of the day RL must always be top priority.
Geo: if u have no life in rl go to sl and if u have no life in sl go to rl
Sonicity: Be sure that you are doing something that will make you feel better about yourself. And if you catch yourself lost in here, and become part of some drama, it's time to reflect on why you are here. There are tons of experiences waiting for you that are positive! Why replicate what you don't like in Second Life in an alternative universe. Find great friends - Belinda Barnes, Lowe Runo, Persia Bravin, and Kara Trapdoor - and so many others - have been here with me through my journey - so find some friends with the same interests as you, or be open to the possibility of trying new things - mentally healthy things - and please don't forget about the importance of breathing in some fresh air and taking a walk around the block.
Shiran: Make sure that you are happy when you are here and that you are giving to others and to yourself in a positive way. If you feel you are spending too much time then you are, just say ok one hour and then I must go. Be disciplined
Krissy: Make an investment in learning something new all the time. Remember this should be fun.
These avatars gave some good advice. Finding happiness in what you do in both worlds seems to be the key to fulfillment and balance. Maintaining this balance and sharing your time with the people that make you happy in both worlds is where you find harmony.
Like Jerry Springer would say, “take care of yourself…and each other”.