There has been occasional reference in blogs over the past while to the question of Second Life interfering with RL relationships and even comments by people who have given up spending time online as their RL relationships have suffered.
This supposition, that there is a conflict between the two worlds, is common, and is not unlike the exclamations that went up when TV started being a 24 hours entertainment service. Family life would be ruined, we were told and people would never speak to each other and that would be The End.
Well, there can be little doubt that TV has changed the way most of the ‘civilised’ world spends its evenings, but basically...life goes on.
Now, if sitting beside your loved one on the sofa watching either some dreary football match or Big Brother is what constitutes ‘quality time’ then fair enough. I don’t personally see any problem in one or the other partner choosing to go online instead. As one girl said to me..”I didn’t know when we married that he would become a football maniac”. Surely there is room in a relationship for partners to have different hobbies, be they football or SL.
But the thing that really annoys me about this whole debate is the idea that my virtual friends are virtual friends, they aren’t. My friends are just as real online as off. A relationship doesn’t become virtual because you use the telephone or email to keep in touch, the communications media you use to maintain that relationship is surely immaterial.
The written word has been used to form and maintain friendships for many hundreds of years and IM’s are exactly that, the written word.
There is, anyway, no such thing as a virtual relationship, either it’s a relationship, or it isn’t.
Which brings me on to relationships in general. As far as I understand anything my ability to form and maintain any relationship is dependent on my own self-respect and morality (I am not using the word in a Christian sense) and, I am surely not alone in believing that, any form of therapy is aimed at improving firstly one’s self belief and self worth, and, consequently, one’s ability to form meaningful relationships.
So.... as I have tried to point out in various posts here, SL has a therapeutic element.... therefore, it follows, that SL can have a very positive effect on all relationships and, more importantly, on our ability to form and maintain relationships.
This is precisely the opposite view to that which is fashionably thrown around blogs on a regular basis.
I go even further than this in a past post and suggest that the normal preconceptions we have about who we could make friends with is broken down because of our understanding of how unimportant appearance is in SL. We know someone’s appearance bears little or no likeness, often, to RL, and is therefore both changeable and transitory. We look beyond this initial impression and find the person behind.
I have friends in SL who may be older, younger, of different nationalities, than people I meet in RL. They may be physically handicapped, deaf, or have any number of disabilities which would restrict their social lives in RL, and all this matters not one iota in VW’s. My preconceptions of who I would form a friendship with are blown away.
Second Life is great for relationships.
“Would you be my friend” is just sooo sweet it brings a lump to my throat.