The Emotional Reality of Virtual Relationships
Occasionally I find a post on another blog that resonates so strongly with me that I excerpt it here. Here’s some eloquent reflections by Dove Mornington on the topic of emotional interactions in virtual relationships that occur in worlds like Second Life. I’m excerpting the first part of this post to pique your interest–please click through to read the whole post:
“It’s only a game, Dove” were his last words to me when I stormed out of SL the other night. (Read blog below) This has started me thinking a lot about the so called “game” Second Life. Is it a game or isn’t it? For those who haven’t followed this blog and are just jumping in, Second Life is a virtual reality “game” where one creates and idenity through a character avatar, is given a psuedo name, then creates a life (a second life) within the program. Social networking with other avatars is the main idea of the game. Here a variety of activities can be experienced in three dimensional form. Unlike a regular chat program, each character avatar experiences their own created world. Unlike real life (RL) Second Life becomes anything imaginable. If you can dream it, it is there waiting for you in Second Life. The avatar becomes the extension of oneself, where real feelings are experienced to the degree one is able to allow. The interaction of one avatar to another is based in personality. Here, “in world” everyone looks perfect and attractive. We are drawn to individuals through the essence of who they are. Personality is the attraction. We get to know the persona shown to us, which may or may not be the personality of the person behind the avatar in real life. Men have been known to impersonate women and visa versa. Deep down, one never truly knows who they are “playing” with. Some people are the same as their real lives, others portray an entirely new idenity. Personality is personality however and this is truly what comes through. A kind person will be a kind person, a mean spirited one will also be that. Bottom line, no matter what the identity protrayed in the avatar, the personality of the person is going to be who they are. It’s one reason I do like the game.
Imagine a sea of souls; that is all you are able to connect with. You can not see the physical forms, just a sea of personalities. Each soul creates an image of what they would like to look like in world. In real life, we are distracted away from the personality at first for we are focused on the physical appearance, creating our own judgements and conclusions based on what we see. However, in Second Life, where everyone is beautiful, one sees the personality first. I suppose it is kind of like going to catholic school and wearing a uniform! A personality must stand out to be noticed. This is what Second Life is like.
Now, we have entered the sea of souls. Here we find emotions and feelings alive and well. Every range of emotion is here. It is amazing to see what this “game” will bring out in one. Experiences are so numerous, that one could not encounter in a week of everyday life what they could experience in one day of playing Second Life. For this reason, the body is flooded with emotional feelings that come to the surface over many one on one encounters with other avatars….
Excerpted from MIND MATTERS by dovemornington: It’s Only A Game or Is It?.
I couldn’t agree more with the author. When you have the power to make your body look any way you like, appearance becomes inconsequential. Personality is all that really matters, and no matter who you “play” at being, you are drawing from your self. In this way, virtual worlds become a place where people can encounter the essence of others as well as of themselves. I think it’s also one of the reasons that drama can become so intense in those relationships: we bring with us all of the perceptual filters that we use to interpret the world, and there’s very little present in terms of nonverbal cues to anchor our perceptions of others, so our filters can play a larger role in these virtual contexts: a virtual blank Rorschach canvas of sorts, with very real emotions that surface.
Thanks to Dove Mornington for sharing her insights! And I would love to hear if any readers have similar or different reflections to share on this topic.
Photo by rafeejewell