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Second thoughts about Second Life

After my experience on Second Life today, I’m unsure of whether or not it’s something I would use as a part of my day-to-day life. To be totally honest, I found it a little bit scary, especially when I started meeting other people in the Second Life world.

To begin, it seemed sort of exciting to create an avatar – you can make them look like whatever you want! – but I found myself creating one in terms of what I would ideally want to look like in real life. I then thought – am I that unhappy with my own physical appearance that if given the chance, I would change all of it so drastically? And even if my avatar looks how I would want to look, why does it matter how it looks in this artificial world?

I even met a few avatars that weren’t from our class in Second Life. It was obvious that the way I felt about making my avatar (based on how I would ideally want to look) was not unique to just me. All of the girls were tall and slim with long flowing hair and little skimpy outfits, and all of the guys were tall and muscular and tanned. I even walked in on a conversation between two girl avatars chatting about how they liked on another’s hairstyles, and it turned out that they spent REAL MONEY to buy Second Life money in order to BUY these hairstyles. There are even separate websites, not connected to second life, where you can buy clothes and hairstyles, and BLOGS that are more or less based around being “hot” in Second Life. It just seemed so ridiculous! Are people so consumed with how other people will perceive them, that even online, they’re willing to spend real money on their artificial identity hot?

I think social media such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are certainly forums for narcissism to flourish in an unhealthy way, but there’s something distinctly disturbing about the narcissism I discovered on when it came to the avatars on Second Life.

Did anyone else encounter this strange type of behavior? And how did it make you feel to design what “you” would look like?

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May 27, 2009 - Posted by | Comment on Course Material

2 Comments »

  1. Hi Laura – I’ve been a resident of SL for going on three years now. There are those who completely eschew looks in SL. I’ve seen old and wrinkled avs, extremely obese avs, lions and tigers and bears (oh my), and avs that reach into the abstract with glowing balls of energy, geometric shapes or just hyper-intelligent shades of blue.

    The thing to remember with SL is that it is both like a dreamscape and like a never ending Halloween party or Mardi Gras. The AVs people choose are simply creative expressions. Some people just aren’t all that creative and the most they can think of is to play the role of Ken or Barbie.

    Now I’ve dropped a few coins for fashions and hair in SL. Why? Because I appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the creators of these things (not to mention that my Av looks faboo in them).

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or ridicule the world and its participants though. People spend far more money on far more ridiculous things in ‘Real Life’. There are some interesting things going on in-world. I’d recommend a skim through Massively or New World Notes for an idea of what’s what in the virtual environment.

    Comment by Rob Clark | May 27, 2009 | Reply

  2. Laura – I totally agree. I was never really that interested in the idea of virtual worlds, and while I enjoyed the accessorizing part of it, all in all it was weird. I agree also with your points about narcissism – I already noted that my favorite part was the creating my appearance. To me, virtual worlds just seem like another place for our consumer society to have expectations about appearance. I myself was even questioning who would ever make themselves look overweight when they had the choice? I feel like your Avatar ‘has’ to look a certain way (like you said all the girls were skinny and tall) because you have no ‘excuse’ to not look good in this world. The fact that the original avatar you’re given is a perfectly shaped women, only further perpetuates these assumptions that you need to look perfect in Second Life.

    Comment by beewilly | May 27, 2009 | Reply


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