Sunday, 29 August 2010

RL Relationships to SL Addiction

I recently read this post on NWN about Nightflower who has returned to SL after first giving up her avatar in the hope of appeasing her RL partner. The logic, if that is the right word, that was used at the time went something like this... in leaving her second life she would unite the two parts of herself that SL had split.

As I have taken several previous opportunities to denounce the illusory myth of the Integrated Personality, it may be unneccessary to do so here. Suffice it to say that Nightfire's delusion that SL split her personality and therefore leaving SL would make her whole is not an uncommon idea as I heard it several times in the spring of 2009.

The other equally annoying concept of an 'addiction' to SL also drove me to mini rants (e.g. here) where I point out that blaming a medium for your behaviour is like saying " the phone made me act like this"..... nuts.

Now we have all at some time or another experienced, or heard of people who have had their circle of friends criticised by their RL partner. Giving up contact with a group or individual people in order to secure a relationship with another is clearly nonsense ... a slippery slope which only a sickly relationship would demand. If there is not room for a hobby and a circle of friends in your life that is not shared with your partner, then maybe there should be.

For one person to demand that the other give up using, say, the phone as it is destroying their lives is clearly rubbish, why would SL be any different?

One sentence which Nightflower uses needs particular examination.. "I leave to give my husband the secret part of myself that I've been withholding for so long."....The reason this sets off bells ringing in my head is simply because this secret part of ourselves we have been withholding from ourselves all our lives. The repressed content of our psyches becomes manifest through viewing our psyche in the Third Person. Playing out this role is pure therapy, and it is a therapy no-one should ask us to give up, and if they do, we should ask why this is being asked of us, rather than agreeing we have an 'addiction'.

If you find yourself in a dream in bed with a film star or a football team do you wake in the morning full of guilt and vowing never to sleep again?.. Ok... you will say, but I was unconscious and my unconscious is autonomous, therefore I am guiltless.... but an avatar is not fully conscious either (or your RL personna) and for the unconscious to lead you into rubbing pixels with someone points to repressed content which it would be more helpful to examine and question rather than blaming the medium that brought you together. You can't blame a Hotel chain if you exchange bodily fluids in one of their rooms, and you can't blame SL for a much more sanitary interaction online.

Guilt and shame are a part of the process of self discovery ....".. traditionally (in Western esoteric writings at least) fear and shame are the two Guardians. They are known as The Lesser Guardian of the Threshold (shame) and The Greater Guardian of the Threshold (fear) and the Threshold they guard is the one between normal consciousness and "The Spiritual World".... (that is to say in normal language that lack of self respect and anxiety hold us back from achieving our full potential.)
Their job is to allow no-one to enter a higher realm (consciousness for example) until they have been prepared as an acolyte (esoteric student) to such a degree that the revelations that ensue will be understandable/tolerable to the individual. Now this is all allegorical.... but has an archetypal stature which is worth talking about. We all share archetypes, they are the foundation stones of our psyche." (from a post about appearance).

I would like to thank Nightflower for her very personal account, her thinking is not uncommon and it is because of her honest writing that I have used her as an example, not because I think it was incorrect for her to follow her heart as she did. We all do what we think is best at the time.

I wanted simply to expose some very common misunderstandings that exist as virtual world myths.

This is my hobby, these are my friends, and they are a part of me. "Love me, love my dog/avatar".



  1. Wow, soror, I disagree. SL is not just another platform. It's a world where an entirely different set of friends inhabit.

    Yes, I do have RL + SL friendships with some people, but geographic and topical distances separate me from hundreds of other SL friends when I don't log in. Maintaining infrequent contact via email or other social media isn't the same because, as we've maintained over and over again, SL is immersive and interactive in ways that other platforms cannot be.

    I empathize with Nightfire because I too discovered that my busy virtual life was eating away at my RL one. I sacrificed exercise, sleep and even food to make time to for my virtual colleagues, to blog about them, and promote them in and off world. I also had begun to sacrifice my RL friendships and that's a big no-no.

    SL wasn't so much an addiction as another responsibility, and one that become less and less rewarding as I ended up having to spend more and more time defending my choices, and fighting (and losing) for the rights of the artists and content creators I so admire.

    SL is not a telephone. Most SLers don't want to interact in RL. Most RL people don't want to be a part of SL.

    I do see and understand your point of view, though, and above all, I miss you! I would like to share a cup of tea with you, a walk in the woods, a late night gab session... face to face.

  2. wow
    this post makes me realize how different my experience of SL is to yours. It's like another world...

  3. Funny thing... I've been parked on this page for quite a while now, caught in a dilemma: I have strong opinions about this issue (in agreement with soror), but the reasons are private. So I will say this, and let the rest pass:

    Life is Life. The media we use to find and maintain relationships are not sufficient a priori criteria for separating them into classes of greater or lesser worth. That's a subjective choice each one of us makes about the quality of each relationship itself. Sure, there are outside opinions on the matter from "society" and from individuals, but we decide how much weight and credence to give to those, too.

  4. Isabella Alphaville29 August 2010 at 10:38

    Soror would you like to come lead a discussion session on this topic at La Madeleine?
    Could be jam-packed fun!!!

    I try not to judge anyone else. . .live and let live. While I do agree that SL opens many doors into our psyche, has limitless benefits and is the source of endless pleasure, our choices, as they should, remain strictly personal.

  5. @ soror
    @ Lalo
    Finding the "Middle Path" is difficult for many...impossible in this incarnation for some.

  6. "We all do what we think is best at the time" is an important part of this post, I am not judgemental but I do like to throw a spanner in the 'accepted' works where I can....:)

    @ Bettina... yes, tea and cakes on the lawn would be great...

    @ Thirza, yes, and it makes me realise that LL's attempt to attract one or the other class of user is always going to fail because we are so different.

    @ Lalo... Interesting that I heard the other day that a woman's ability to send a letter on her own, to be able to buy a stamp, was seen by many as being the beginning of the end of civilized society. The medium is never to blame... it's just a medium.

    @ Isabella, Of course, I would be happy to.

  7. All the 'wows' are well warranted. Good job on a post that actually provokes some thought and debate.

    I had a similar experience in my life, but the point of contention was neglect rather than split-personality.

    I just bring this up because I think it might be more common yet easily mistaken for the later. The real issue for me is time. The fact is we only have one life and there are only so many hours in the day.

    I'm not saying that SL is at fault, just that relationships are demanding in the time dept. - you can only spend so much time doing other things before it starts to feel less like a relationship and more like a friendship, which some people are not comfortable with.

    What people do in their 'free time' really isn't as much an issue as how much time they spend doing other things. The easy way out is to make it seem like a big dramatic personality issue, war of the worlds, etc. Really it's just prioritizing a significant other over other people, just like IRL.

  8. That is pretty spot on, Matthew.

  9. Isabella Alphaville29 August 2010 at 15:39

    Wow!! Thanks!!! I'll send you an IM so that we can set up a time.

  10. Great post! I agree with you that what we typically think of as human "identity" is a convenient conception we paste upon a very deep, complex and diverse web of being. On the other when we act and interact within the physical sphere of existence, we do so through a physical world of linear and finite time. Even purely avatar personas are housed within biological wetware and the associated limitations.

    So regardless of the cause and effect of a situation like Night recounted, if one's activities in the virtual world are draining resources that are required for healthy human existence, human and avatar can both go down with the ship if something isn't done to find balance.

  11. why am i not surprised when the answer comes around to "balance?" *all* of the sages down through history basically say the same thing. balance is the key, despite the difficulty in attaining it.

  12. soror, your thoughts have left my head spinning all day, and it has taken time to be sure of where I stand. Still, despite the fact that my post triggered this passionate and inspired debate, I feel strangely unqualified to wade in and say more than I've already said. My relationship with SL in general, and with my inworld manifestation in particular, has been enlightening and maddening in equal measures. And while I feel like I've had some powerful revelations along the way, I won't pretend that I've achieved the nirvana of total clarity. But I do feel the need to connect the dots in a way that may actually lend strength to your thesis.

    When you quote, "I leave to give my husband the secret part of myself that I've been withholding for so long," this line was actually from my (apparently premature) farewell post to SL - 17 months ago. And it was a painfully, desperately true statement of the way I felt at the time. Back then, I truly felt a split in my personality, or more specifically, a profound disconnect between the personality traits I had manifested as Night as compared to my habitual social roles in RL. It took a break from SL to teach me the point that soror so validly makes - that what I so envied in Night were really just repressed or previously undiscovered parts of myself. As I gave myself permission to loose those aspects of me in my everyday mommie wifey world, I experienced the most magical period of growth of my life. Its this experience that I was trying to capture in my post at NWN.

    But, while I agree with the sound psychology of your analysis, there's a feisty part of me that simply flips it the bird. At the risk of sounding like an utter loony toon, I have to say that there is something about my relationship with Night that I won't describe as anything less than supernatural. She is me, yet she is other. She is in turns both less than and more than me. She is my inner child, my Freudian id, and my mythological muse. Granted, maybe I should just embrace her solely as the cartoon through which I sort out my own twisted psyche. Maybe it would be far wiser to clinically dissect my attachment to her, and reason my way through these illusions of relationship. But for some reason that approach seems nothing short of blasphemous.

    A friend of mine says she believes that someday, a nerd feverishly crunching formulas behind a desk will suddenly gasp and proclaim, "It doesn't work!" and all the planes in the world will simultaneously fall from the sky. I know that's a joke, but something in it rings true to me. I consciously avoid getting entangled in the endless mind-bending discussions on avatar identity. I think its because a part of me believes that if I pick it apart and analyze it and ultimately understand it, it will simply die. So logic, reason, and psychology be damned...I embrace a more mystical path towards enlightenment.

    Here is what I have chosen to embrace (and what I attempted to say through my recent post): Through Night, I have come to live more fully in the real world. But I sense that she has still more to teach, and finally, I am again ready to learn.

    And Night agrees. Don't you, Night? Night says yes.

    A final comment. You point out, "If there is not room for a hobby and a circle of friends in your life that is not shared with your partner, then maybe there should be." You're absolutely right. In my husband's defense, if I had dug in my heels and built a case for SL as a hobby and a social outlet, he would have done his best to understand. But I ran to SL as an escape from the dysfunction of my RL - and knowing he wouldn't approve, I simply hid it. The moral failure was mine, not his. The only reason I've ventured back into the virtual world is because I believe that now I can come to it from a position of strength and health. Transparency has to be a part of that, so it is.

    And what I mean by that will be a topic of a future post :)

  13. @ Nightfire. Thank you again, your honesty towards your feeling life leaves me in awe.

    So many of us have learnt important lessons from our avatars and these lessons do feed back into RL but for many a time for 'digesting' is vital and I find again and again that we are wiser than we give ourselves credit for..... even when our brains are a bit fogged.

    A post on avatars follows... and I look forward to yours.