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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

SHOULD AVATARS WEAR MASKS? Stacey Cardalines Reporting...




Etiquette is a touchy thing. It is both timeless and ever evolving. There was a time when a lady had to know how to get into a stagecoach properly, for instance. The answer to that doesn't matter now, but other questions rose in place of it, and will continue to arise as we evolve as a species.

One particular question of Etiquette that arose on 2020, in an admittedly isolated niche within SL culture, is "Should avatars wear masks?" 

Note that I phrase it as a question of Etiquette, not as a question of Science. Science doesn't mesh well with the idea of avatars wearing masks. Avatars, which are not living organisms, are incapable of transmitting a physical virus from one to another. There is no scientific benefit to making your avatar wear a mask, not are there medical consequences if you walk around maskless. There may be social consequences, but we'll get to that later in the article. 

Yet, while researching this article, I went on SL Marketplace. I searched for "COVID masks." There were 297 pages of them available. Who is buying all of these masks, and why? Only a fool would buy one, right?

I should add that many of these sales are of the Greater Fool variety, meaning that people think of something simple and useless that they can make for a few pennies and sell for a few pennies more. Perhaps there are people out there who worry about getting sick from an multiple avatar interaction. "The CDC said nothing at all about animated characters being able to go maskless, so I'd better err on the side of caution." That is your target market. Get what you can from them, while you can get it. They are, to quote edited-for-television Scarface, "a great big chicken, waiting to get plucked."

Other people might wear a mask because they feel that SL should mirror RL. Granted, you can't teleport places or carry a lighthouse around with you in RL, but masks come down on the other side of that line. There is a little roleplay element to this that most SL users can slip into effortlessly. We live in a masked society RL, and some feel that this should reflect itself when they move among the animated masses.

Some people may do it for Discipline. If masks are mandatory, you wear them. If you're walking out to get the paper off the doorstep, you wear a mask. If you are running out to the store for one thing, you wear a mask. My grandfather was actually like this with ties. The tie wasn't necessary for what he was doing, but he was more comfortable with a tie on. That kind of discipline would transfer to SL if you were to animate such a man. 

I decided to strut around SL in a mask, just to see how I was reacted to. It was disappointing. Not in a bad way, but in an odd way. Disappointing in myself, if that is how one would phrase it.

I went to the gym first. I was the only one in a mask. Unfortunately, there are a lot of wrestlers in my gym (wrestling is a hugely popular sport on SL). They saw nothing at all odd with me walking around in a gas mask, and just assumed that I was in character. "The crowd is gonna LOVE that!" was a common refrain. "Can it be weaponized?" was another.

I went to my side job as a dancer at a fetish sim. There were 30 people around when I went on the dance pole, dressed exactly as I was in the picture accompanying the article. I was immediately conspicuous. A gas mask, however, is nothing special to fetish people, many of whom were disappointed that I wasn't bound. Several people were able to correctly name the brand.

In the end, you're on SL to amuse yourself. You won't hurt anyone if you don't feel like wearing one, nor will you save lives by wearing one. If someone else wants to wear one, it isn't your business to tell them otherwise.

Shoot, I have a friend on SL who is a 6 foot tall humanish Bat. In the real world, she would be right at the top of How The Virus Jumped To Humans suspect list. On SL, she's just someone I see at work. She's not harming anyone, and neither are you if you wear or refuse to wear a mask.

Do what thou wilt.

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