Friday, 24 September 2010

The Trouble with Balance.

Nightflower has recently posted on NWN the results of her survey of her readers together with her own thoughts on maintaining a balance between RL and SL lives.... and she invites debate and a conversation on this topic... so...

Nightflower’s words are born of her own experience and so are true for her though not necessarily so for all.

The one sentence that jumped out at me was... “my emotional health also requires me to reject romanticization, and embrace the truth that my flesh-and-blood self is inherently more valuable than my digital projection.”

I have a problem with that. It may seem like semantics, me being picky, but my self, or anyone’s self is not flesh and blood, but pure psychic in nature. Similarly I would disagree that my avatar is a straight forward digital projection.

Nightflower also says “I love my avatar Night, and enjoy alternating between talking about her as if she were me, and referring to her as if she were a unique, sentient being. While there are some valuable kernels of truth in that viewpoint for a discussion on identity, that kind of talk is potentially destructive hogwash if we’re talking about balance.”

It would seem to me that some sort of viewpoint on identity would have to be reached before one can make a value judgement about how more or less “valuable” one part of my psyche is as opposed to another part of my psyche.

Is the hour a patient spends with her/his therapist more or less valuable than the 40 hours a week they have to work in order to pay for the therapy?

Her statement is very culturally based, these are the values we were all indoctrinated with from childhood, and may not be viable longer. (previous post, Angst and Addiction)

Though I do not consider myself a Christian there is an example from the bible where Martha complains that she does all the work while Mary just sits at Christ’s feet taking his teaching. So this discussion is not a new one.... and there is no answer.


Moving on from this particular point about the relative importance of atom-based work vs. digital work, I have a theoretical aversion to the idea that balance is always necessary, or even a good thing.

Does the idea “moderation in all things” also include Moderation as one of the things to be moderate about? Is it not necessary to throw Balance out of the window on occasion?

If Mozart had not been obsessed, if van Gogh had achieved more Balance, who would have gained?

Balanced can just equal Safe, and can be the refuge for those feeling they got their fingers burnt playing with fire.... and I make no apology for re-quoting this piece from one of my previous posts on addiction...

“Talking of the conflict between conscious and unconscious elements of the Self, (like yin and yang, human and avatar)... Dr Jung says....
“When this confrontation is confined to partial aspects of the unconscious the confrontation is limited and the solution simple: the patient, with insight and some resignation or a feeling of resentment, places himself on the side of reason and convention.

He means that if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen. Addiction is then the excuse you have for being in the kitchen in the first place. The unwanted sides of your psyche that have manifested get repressed again, and you go back to “normality”.”

I am of the firm belief that I would rather be Mental than Balanced, but a mixture of the two is probably healthier..



  1. When I hear talk about about "balancing" SL vs RL, it often means not letting virtual life negatively impact one's important human relationships, health, job, etc. I think that's good advice for most people, since virtual life depends upon the physical, financial and psychological well being of the underlying human.

    That said, it wouldn't make sense to jeopardize important virtual relationships or activities (such as a passionate artistic pursuit) due to the judgements of friends or family who don't grok the value of virtual life, trivial pursuits or other mundane motivations.

    I think there's nothing special about virtual life. It's just another way to slice and dice our experience. Probably a more holistic doctrine would be to make sure that all of the important aspects of your life are well taken care of.

  2. You mean you're supposed to balance the two?!!!! Oh no!!!!!

  3. @ Mary... nah, you're cool... (I have 3 now)...

  4. @ Botgirl, I would have to disagree, there IS something special about virtual life ... (or 'are'... more than one thing) ... and its therapeutic nature I have written about before now, as one example.

  5. I AM me! no less.
    The "me" that rezzes at Benares on loggin is no less "me" than the me that drives to the store and buys groceries.

  6. I agree that virtual identity and experience have unique and special qualities. I meant "not special" in reference to how we evaluate its value to us in relationship to other priorities and important factors in life.

  7. It's difficult to discuss such things without taking the situation of the user into mind. Per your comment about Mozart, yes... as an artist I have sacrificed a great many things to pursue my art. This "new psych speak" about everyone being homogenous is so much fluff; people are not homogenous. I do not recommend to people they live like I do... if they are not artists.

    It is a compulsion, nay may I even say, "addiction" to spend my life in this pursuit. So what? Should I spend it in pursuit of money? Fame? Collecting Civil War widgets? Any other activity that "normal" people spend their lives on?

    I am also addicted to "breathing;" I cannot stop it for more than 3 minutes at a time. If I stop, I die. I am chained to the addiction of "breathing."

    This is the ludicrousness of applying pop, watered-down psychological concepts to behavior of individuals.

    Balance is critical even in the "obsessed;" If i didn't stop once in awhile to eat or sleep, my art will suffer. That doesn't mean someone ELSE's balance is my balance. I object to the Procrustean Bed technique of modern sociality.

    I am an adult. I pay for my pleasures and my life. If your life is in chaos, that chaos comes from inside you, not from any external forces. The balance you need is determined by your own psyche and life.

  8. If I was writing a first person novel using a pseudonym would I be in danger of losing touch with my real self? Would I be told I had to find some 'balance'?

    I agree with Botgirl - there's nothing 'special' about Second Life. It's just new (well...maybe not so new now), and because it's new we think it's more dangerous than things we already accept as 'normal'.

    How much a slice of your life is given up to SL or any other optional activity is just a how much time you have and how you set your priorities. It's not 'addictive', but it is engaging.

    Some people like watching a lot football on the telly. I find it an absurd pastime and think they are deluded and should spend more time out walking or talking to their kids. I guess I could call them addicted and say they should find a better balance in their lives.

    I prefer playing with something creative and interactive - like a virtual world. (Something worth being addicted to?)

  9. @ Brinda. I would personally be aware that it is also possible to 'romanticise' RL too... it is all me.

    @ Botgirl....whoops...stupid me.

    @ Miso. I would agree, a 'normal' life seems pretty weird to me.

    @ Juanita. Yep, the TV is such one-way traffic compared to anything we do online. Apparently you use less calories watching TV than sleeping, it is more passive than sleep.

  10. Who am I? I am an avatar named Wizzy who frequently throws in a comment or two on Soror's blog. "I" am not my meathead typist. Sorry. I guess i'm romanticising again. i can't seem to help myself. after all, it's part of who "I" am.

  11. @Wizzy: heh heh

    @Miso: "Procrustean Bed" -- an allusion I haven't seen in years, and very *ahem* fitting.

    I am single, child-free, and need answer to no one about how I spend my free time. So what if all of my friendships are mediated through an electronic device, and the people I interact with in purely organic mode do not rise above the level of acquaintance? I understand that some folks have more complicated lives than mine... I resent the implication by some of those that my life is less worthy because I choose to keep it simple (though definitely not stupid).