Every day a growing number of people connect virtually and devote a considerable part of their time to virtual interactions in the search of friendships, love relationships and jobs, among other reasons.
In Second Life you can make friends within minutes. Meet people of different nationalities and different cultures and lifestyles. But are these friendships that we establish in Second Life true? Reliable? Viable? Real?
These are questions that we reflect on.
It’s seemingly easier to make virtual friends than real ones. Possibly it’s the relative anonymity that the virtual world offers that makes the process easier. But the evolution of a virtual friendship is exactly the same that occurs when we make our real life friends. However, some say that the friendships we have in the real world, are truer than those established in the virtual world and virtual relationships have weaknesses from the point of view of life and sense of human relations and their complexity.
People can create personalities and identities that are not always consistent with reality. Relations mediated by the Internet can be a decoy, suggesting that virtual friendships are not necessarily as effective as real ones. Many feel that these relationships are weakened by the lack of a real human presence.
The fact is that virtual friendships, as well as conventional ones, revolve around communicating with one another. When we interact with our virtual friends, we feel that many of these relationships can be lasting and know when there is or isn’t an emotional authenticity to them. Many of us go beyond everyday friendship and cultivate professional and artistic projects with our virtual friends. These virtual friendships, in most cases, do not transfer to the real environment and remain "online".
What’s interesting is that people in the virtual world, are given the opportunity to unlock almost all of real life’s limitations and express desires and fantasies of all kinds. For example, a shy person, or an unhappy person with low self-esteem, or a person stressed by work, can discover new possibilities and overcome these limitations in this environment where "everything is possible": the shy can be outgoing, the unhappy find that they can be sexy and desired, and the stressed feel relaxed and without pressure. From behind the computer screen, many of us can hide the worst facets of our personality, or on the other hand, discover the wonderful gifts that can be found when interacting virtually with others.
In my opinion it’s important that everyone enters into virtual friendships with their eyes open. To think that there are no rules of engagement when establishing these friendships would be foolish. Many residents in Second Life, maintain and grow their list of online friends, while others do not. Why is that the case? It depends on your motivation. Those who maintain their friendships keep in constant contact with said friends. Frequent but not excessive interaction facilitates the consolidation of the virtual friendship. You have to maintain a certain balance, otherwise you may have the opposite effect and start to bother and annoy people, and end up losing the potentially lasting friendships.
In conclusion we can say that a virtual friendship allows us to explore amazing possibilities which are often impossible in the real world. Moreover, these friendships can save us from loneliness, encourage us to forge ahead, facilitate our projects and possibly even surprise us. Unfortunately as with our real friends, some of our virtual friends will let us down.
Thanks to my friends, Camy and the brothers Einar and Claude Goulart & Bragança, who posed for the photos illustrating this article.