There will eventually be the time when any avatar needs to consider quitting Second Life © (SL). There are many reasons to leave, as there are for staying. Stareyes Galaxy quit SL for the time being, but not before she had to write about the experience.
I have only a few conjectures to make as to why people leave SL, since when they leave, generally they just vanish without a trace. Before I left, I met some of my closest friends and discussed the topic. There were some poignant reasons to leave, one of which seems to be breakups in relationships. I know some people who have left due to this, and some have returned. From these, I gather even a year or two may pass before they feel able to return to SL after a tortuous breakup. The emotions associated with separation from an avatar are just as real as those in real life. Curiously, I have also found people who have been found out in RL, having an SL relationship and therefore have needed to quit SL!
“Miss C.” sums her experience up: “Well, it gets under your skin. A trauma normally is the cleanest break and reason to leave and stay away. But many seem to come back after a year or so… is that quitting? but I guess it’s like any habit or activity that is rewarding or fills some need or experience... hard to let go even when reason says it is for the best. It has similarities to addiction but, I feel, it’s more subtle than that as it is a freedom and a behavior and a degree of control one is giving up.”
Stalking is another very disturbing trait that seems to follow on the heels of virtual relationships. I even have heard of stalkers going after the people behind the avatars, in real life. If this happens, even creating alts is too risky, so it seems best to stay out of SL forever.
The death of the real person behind the avatar of course is the ultimate end of us all. Unfortunately, many times there is no way to know. Sometimes, a RL friend of a deceased person sends group notices or contacts friends directly, informing of an avatar’s demise. Some sims have tombstones and memorials for avatars who have left due to the death of the SL account holder.
Aside from the real, everyday life imposing on one’s use of time, requiring avatars to leave SL, one interesting thing, as “Miss C” already noted, popped up: addiction. There are avatars who are so immersed in their SL experience that they neglect their real lives. Horror stories of parents starving children to death while tending to their virtual babies are the most extreme. Other addictions beside the internet-based ones, of course lead to similar results! In order to shed one’s habits there are techniques – alcoholics have their 13-step methods, and so on, some go “cold turkey”.
When I quit, I felt like a drug user without her fix. I felt like something very real was ripped off me. As I said, I returned a few times to say my goodbyes. This did not help at all as I craved to stay on longer than I intended.
Form my personal quitting on SL experience, this is the advice I wish to impart, in ten observations:
1. If you decide to quit, stay firm on that decision. Never look back, and don’t let yourself be talked around on your decision. Believe in your reasons to quit, they must be valid ones.
2. Set yourself a date when you are completely out. Bid your farewells before.
3. Be sure to get valid contact details for people you absolutely need to keep as your friends.
4. Leave a notice of leaving in your profile so you don’t need to go back to do that last bit (like I had to).
5. Examine your position from your RL standpoint. What do you have to replace what role SL had for you? Fill your free time with these people or activities. You may find your need to get back online dissipate sooner than later.
6. If you have professional ties within SL, be sure to part on friendly terms. Inform your employer and associates well ahead of time so they know how to adjust. Donate whatever you can to whom the items, land, and Lindens are owed.
7. Go on your SL account and terminate it, or at least give up your Premier status, in order to not have a financial impact down the line.
8. Do not create alts to go see your old haunts. You will be found out if you start conversing with people, and your craving to get back online is likely to increase, or in the opposite, you only will get bad vibes.
9. Do not worry what others are saying about you when you’re gone. Most likely they will forget about you soon enough. If not, and if this gets out to RL, see observation #10 below.
10. If the reason leading to your quitting involves harassing or criminal activity by an avatar or real-life person, be sure to contact Linden Lab as well as your local authorities. They may in fact be able to help you.
I ran these observations through with a fellow journalist and psychologist DoctorKaren Kanto who wished to add this: “Remember what was good in SL and bring it to bear in your RL, to enhance the RL experience. Let go of the SL negatives, they may be unimportant.” I think this was wery well put, as I have tried to make my avatar display the best of me in SL. Now, having had the experience, I might improve my real life persona, based on my SL learnings.
As for me, why I quit: time just ran out on me. When I joined SL, I was in a fortunate position at my Real Life work, allowing me to explore virtual worlds and interaction paradigms of virtuality. Getting online on SL was as natural as having breakfast. I took unnecessary liberties as well, maybe spending a bit too much on SL than my work warranted. Then again, there were times when exploring virtuality was a better use of my time than just idling along on my work PC. Since the beginning of this year things changed and instead of writing for SLE, I have real-life writing assignments that I have to honor which are likely to advance my RL standing as well.