August 17, 2008
It was a few weeks ago that I ended up being one of the last people to answer that relationship survey that was going around. In doing so, I came up with a handful of more questions that I added to my blog. I think just about everyone has answered them, but me. Its taken me some time.. mostly, because those questions were so much easier to ask, than they are to answer. Its a touchy subject. Confusing, sometimes a little scary. But its always worth it.
A lot of us have formed bonds and friendships in Second Life that have really enriched our lives.. both in Second Life, and in a lot of cases, in first life as well. I’m sure most of us didn’t expect to find a partner when we signed up for this ‘game’. It was supposed to be just that, right? Just a game, something to pass the time. For some people, thats all it is. They might log in when there’s nothing good on tv.. or they’re finished with work and want to unwind for an hour or so. But for others.. Second Life can be an extension of our lives. Those that are really lucky actually make a living in here. Some of the top name skin and fashion designers, or people who have businesses like Onrez or SLX. The rest of us find our own little niche. Maybe you’re a blogger, a builder, an artist or podcaster. But regardless, I bet most of you have met some of the best friends in your life through this medium. And sometimes, those relationships run deeper than friendship.
This is a whole new world to me. I know Second Life has been around for quite a few years, but in my mind its only been a handful of months. A lot can happen in that short amount of time, and there is a lot for me to figure out, still. I came up with the questions, but some of the answers are harder for me to wrap my mind around, or face. I haven’t even read the list of questions in a little while, so I’m still not completely prepared with my answers. So I guess I’ll just do what I’ve done for this whole blog post up until now, and wing it. Everyone else had the guts to answer them, so I guess its past time for me to do the same. So, here goes.
1.) If you have a relationship or partner in SL, how does that extend into real life? Do you consider yourself just friends, or something more?
Yes, I do have a partner in Second Life. But in looking at this question, I want to take a step back for a moment and clarify the difference between a parter, and a relationship. Because I can see where those can be two completely different things, depending on the person and the situation.
The term ‘Partner’ in Second Life can be extremely vague. When I first joined, I assumed that slot was for business partners. And a lot of people do use it that way. The Partner slot can have a whole variety of meanings. I think for the majority, it means two people are in an exclusive relationship. However, I can think of a few exceptions to that rule right off the top of my head, from some people I know or are friends with. Two of my friends partnered with one another because the girl was sick of being hit on. She wanted that slot on her profile filled so people would leave her alone. Another couple friends of mine- both of them girls- partnered with each other because they are best friends and room mates. Then there are those people who see SL as a sort of roleplaying game, and might have multiple alts, all of who have different partners who are none the wiser.
Then, there are those of us who have a relationship. Those people have partnered with someone who is very special to them. Someone that they care a lot about on a deep and emotional level. Thats the category I fall under. For the longest time, I was afraid to be very open with admitting that, because everyone is naturally afraid of rejection. Its easy for you to know how you feel, but you never really want to just assume it goes both ways. There’s a lot of potential to be burned, even unintentionally. Then again, all of that could apply to real life anyway. The difference is, Second Life ultimately IS a game at first glance. You might know where you stand and for what reasons you’re in this world. But unless you’ve ever specifically asked your partner, how do you know for sure that you’re on the same page. The only solution to that is to talk about it… or just wait and see, and let time develop the answers.
Yes, my relationship with Keeme does extend into first life. We talk far more outside of SL than we do in world. The visual/3D representation is nice and its fun to explore and be silly, but I think we usually have deeper conversations in IM or even on the phone.
2.) How often do you talk to your partner outside of Second Life.. be it via email or IM? Do you ever talk on the phone?
I guess I got a little bit ahead of myself in that last answer. I really am not reading ahead, I’m just answering frankly as I go. Yes, its rare that a day will go by that we don’t have some sort of contact of some kind. Even if its as small as a reply or post on Plurk- there is always some sort of contact. If a day does go by and I don’t have that brief IM or silly reply on a plurk or blog post, I do miss it. Sometimes several days or even a week might go by when Keeme doesn’t log into SL. But you can bet we’ve at least been talking in google chat, or late at night on the phone.
3.) If you could meet your partner in person, would you? What do you imagine that would be like- where would you go, or what would you do?
In a heartbeat, yes! I would love to meet him.. and I really hope to, someday. What do I imagine it would be like? I know I’d be a little nervous and shy, at first. Even after all this time, I’m usually shy the first few minutes we talk on the phone or even record our podcast! I can hear it come across in some recordings if we don’t chat for a few minutes first. I don’t think its a bad thing- I think its kind of funny. Hey, I like the guy. And its still kind of new.
I don’t think it would matter so much where we’d go or what we’d do. I picture us meeting here in Vegas.. there are a lot of things I’d love to show him that I think he’d like. There is the joke that SL is similar to Vegas, after all. We could watch a pirate battle, explore a pyramid and then have dinner in ‘Paris’. But above all, I’d like to be somewhere relatively quiet so we could just talk, and laugh. We’re really good at that.
4.) Do you feel like having a relationship in Second Life is similar to having a long distance relationship? Or is it a different type of relationship, entirely?
This question was the hardest of all to answer, because I think a Second Life relationship deserves its own category. Its like a hybrid of a long distance relationship, an online relationship, and something else not quite defined. Think about this: Have any of you spent time talking to your partner in chat or email outside of SL.. but even though you’re talking, there’s a little something that still seems to be missing. Logging in world sometimes makes that difference.. even though that doesn’t make a lot of sense. You are still just as equally apart in distance. You’re still seperated by a computer screen, and you’re still looking at pixels. Doesn’t matter if its in text, or by graphics in SL. Its still just pixels on a screen.
And yet on the other hand, it somehow seems just a little bit more tangible. You can still go out and DO things.. explore, go on a date. For some people, even make love. Its not real, but at the same time.. its more than talking through a chat window.
So yes, its a different type of relationship entirely. I think if Second Life shut its doors tomorrow, thousands of people would feel like they lost a part of their relationships. Even if they continued contact with their partners via other means. That physical ‘representation’ would be lost, and it would make a difference. Something would be changed, thats kind of hard to put into words.
I feel lucky because Keeme and I DO keep such close contact outside of Second Life. If it disappeared tomorrow, we’d still be.. what? “Together”? Partners? I’m not sure what you’d call it, but our relationship would stay the same. We’d still do a podcast together, and we’d still have the close connection that we do now. We’d still talk on skype and on the phone. Yet, I think a part of me would be sad. Its easy to get spoiled by having the visuals and a whole world in front of you. I wouldn’t want to go from that, to only text on a screen. Guess thats where we’d have to invest in web cams.
5.) If you met through an online chat, do you feel you would have developed a relationship? Or the same level of relationship?
You know, I have a feeling I might be in the minority here. But yes, I do think we would have developed a relationship. If anything, I think its possible that it might have even happened faster. At least, for me. I’ve been in chat rooms for a long time, and I’m comfortable with communicating through text. The thing that drew me to Keeme had nothing to do with his avatar- it was all about how damn FUNNY he was. Within the first couple minutes of meeting him, he was making me laugh. I’m such a huge sucker for that. Thats why we connect so well outside of Second Life, also. He’s incredibly entertaining, funny, and just a blast to talk to. And we’ve had some really long, deep conversations that I’d never trade for anything.
My answers to this survey ended up being way longer than I expected. But I guess thats part of why I waited so long. This wasn’t something I just wanted to rush through. I really wanted to explore my thoughts with this. It took me some time and a fair amount of courage to answer them, but I’m glad I did. I feel better, relaxed. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.