second life

This may look like nonsense to alot of people, but if you’re a Second Life user, you will quickly identify with the depicted scenes.

When I first logged-on to Second Life in September of 2006, I really had no idea of what to expect. I’m one of those people who has always felt that the virtual world was for losers. I didn’t want to chat with complete strangers, especially by having to type my messages to them. I knew that this was a little different than that, but didn’t understand how. Once I immersed myself into the virtual 3D world, I felt like i had gone to a foreign land. I had to create an avatar, my virtual self in that world. I had to learn how to move this avatar around, and wait, people are typing messages to me….yes, I started typing messages to complete strangers.

There was something very seductive about this place. My first level of appreciation was realizing I was very much enjoying the visual presentation in-world. It was definitely eye-candy. Not everything was beautiful, but everything was amazing. Keeping in tune with the visual quality of the world, I found myself becoming aware of my appearance. My avatar was comic looking, had bad clothing, and walked like a duck. I could see there were solutions to this, and learned how to go shopping. Yes, real virtual shopping…turns out there is a real economy in-world. One can earn Linden Dollars (named for the creators, Linden Labs). These Linden Dollars can be sold and converted to US dollars, but the exchange usually goes to spending US Dollars to purchase Linden Dollars. You can then purchase everything from clothing to new skin, to property and houses, and on and on….

Why would anyone want to purchase virtual property? I couldn’t understand that. I was having fun going to clubs and dancing, and partaking of the many beautiful parks and scenic sites you can visit for free. But I didn’t have a sense of belonging to the world. I felt like I was just visiting. So I bought property. Much like in the Real World, I then got busy, with putting a house on the property and furnishing and landscaping. After I sold my first property for an enormous profit, I saw a way to make money there. I began buying and selling Real Estate. I made good in-world profits, and doubled my US dollar investment. I didn’t cash out though, and kept investing and spending, I had become a true Second Life resident.

But isn’t it kind of crazy to be so involved in a virtual life? I used to think so. But here I was enjoying a creative outlet and I was socializing actively with people from all over the world. Remember, each Avatar has a real-life human behind it.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and am currently in a Master’s Program for Interactive Communications, so a place where the limits and rules are few is a fertile area to study human behavior. I was surprised that even though you can fly and build outrageous things, the world the residents created looks much like the one we live in. There are streets, buildings, houses, most people are dressed in a normal fashion. Houses often have kitchens and conventional furniture even though you don’t need any of that.

So I tried to break the mold for myself. I tried to become the wild and crazy guy that I’m so not in the real world. It didn’t work. The longer I was in, the more I became myself. The farthest I’ve gone was: during a period when I got frustrated with inconsiderate neighbors, I moved to the Elven Lands and became an Elf. This was a nice respite for me, but I got tired of paying rent. Remember, I was accustomed to making money from real Estate, not losing it. So I made the journey back to the mainland and have found an area I enjoy living in. I still have some inconsiderate neighbors, but generally it’s a nice place.

Once I learned how to build things, I began manufacturing some rather nice items. I decided to try to sell things. I opened a store in a mall, and did sell some items. Well, it’s the rental story again, so I decided to dedicate a portion of my property to a store. Then I quickly made a larger store. Everyone seems to really like it and I’ve advertised it in the classifieds. While sales have not been much, it is still new, and I have some work to make it more customer-friendly, but I think I will keep it going.

Relationships is another area of great interest. While people from around the world are members, we all seem to get along quite well. Sure, there are Griefers, who make it their life’s work to make other residents unhappy, but they are a minority. Friendships come with ease, and as in real life, friends come and go. I have a couple of relatives, and several real life friends that I meet with in-world and that is fun and fascinating. What surprised me was finding that I could bond and make close in-world friendships with complete strangers. Somehow the essence of who people are come through even though we meet as rather cartoonish Avatars. I’m currently trying to figure out how these almost gestureless characters can, by using type chat convey a sense of self, and that we can perceive it as a distinct personality.

I recently took the plunge into a romantic Second Life relationship. I had some earlier attempts in this direction, but all failed due to the other being in a relationship, either in-world or in Real Life, and not being comfortable with getting involved. There is alot of relationship drama here, and as in Real Life, I run from it. I came here for escape, not to relive daily life. But I did finally meet a sister of one of my neighbors. We started somewhat conventionally, went slowly, got to know each other, then decided to officially be a couple. I was surprised again at how much I could learn about myself in a relationship by attempting it in a virtual world. It has actually been useful and has helped me grow. I do believe my next Real Life love relationship will benefit from my in-world experience.

While there are so many levels to enjoy the experience, it is not a game really; it’s a place to create and enjoy. Increasingly, it’s becoming a place for business and education, and I hope to provide updates on those aspects sometime in the future.

Connor vs Wild

May 10, 2007


I think my family is very media-oriented. This is the work of my 12 year old son, who has been creating videos since he was 7 years old.

Ubiquitous TV

May 2, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot about TV lately. I remember coming home from work, sitting in front of the TV while I ate dinner (one of those things you do when you live alone), taking care of a thing or two, then watching TV until I went to bed. I wasn’t really watching TV; mainly sampling what was on the hundreds of channels available in the new and improved cable offerings. Rarely, I would actually find something that was interesting. Sometimes I would find an intelligent, well-written show that I knew wouldn’t make it past one season because it was too clever.

People don’t really want to think when they watch TV; that’s why they call it “watching” TV. It is a way to relax and clear your mind (and fill it with whatever junk the networks choose for us). It is also a way to anesthetize yourself from thinking or feeling…just watch…

If you are observant, you will notice I started this off with a past tense. Yes, I don’t watch TV anymore. I have engaged myself with being interactive on the internet. I do many things, some creative and some social. To me both seem a better option than TV watching. When my kids are here, they turn the TV on, watch a show or two, but mainly leave it on for background noise. Maybe they are hoping something interesting will come on that will catch their attention. That’s the only time my TV is on these days.

Why do people need TV? I have a downstairs neighbor who is fond of and addicted to loud TV viewing. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, it is her constant companion. How sad that a person should come to that state of “living”. Beyond the sympathy, I get mad at her for forcing me to listen to her TV. It’s even worse than having my own on; just muffled gibberish that garners some attention, but not worth listening to. It reminds me of cigarette smokers who force others to breathe their smoke (did I mention she is an ex-smoker?).

I notice when I go to other people’s houses that the TV is on in the background. Some people turn it on as soon as they get home from work, then leave it on until bedtime. Have we become so disconnected from other people that we depend on this chattering medium to fill the voids in our lives? That’s sad. Sometimes I think people are just afraid to be alone with their thoughts. If the TV wasn’t on, they might start thinking. Goodness, then what?

There are media companies who are working on bringing TV to our cellphones. Great, now you can take TV with you. You have to be seriously addicted to want to watch TV on that little screen. But I predict it will be a great success. Maybe someone will create glasses that will project an image so you can see it and still see beyond it. Ubiquitous TV.

As for me, I am planning to have my cable TV disconnected. I’m going to lose the box. I’ll keep the cable internet connection of course, but then I like using my mind, and I don’t mind thinking for myself. My kids will complain, but we’ll watch more movies, and spend online time together as well as actually getting out and doing things in the world instead of just watching them.