When the wide-eyed innocence of Second Life came to an end (for me)

This is probably going to read as bitter or sad, or something similar, to a lot of people. It not meant to be either of those. Its about when the magic fades and something else sets in.

The party’s beginning today for a certain event. The SL 9th birthday. Everyone else’s blog is covering that I imagine. But I’m not. Not exactly.

Only in that its part of my inspiration for what I will cover.

This year’s SLxB is really a Second Life Resident’s Birthday. Perhaps we should have even considered hosting this one on Open Sim. Its the year the Lindens unofficially but publicly gave up on their world. They didn’t bother with SlxB this year – they left us to fend for ourselves over it.

The kids have been kicked out of the house. The innocence anyone might have professed to have over Linden Lab and their devotion to Second Life should now be thoroughly shattered.

So when did you lose your innocence over what Second Life could be? When did you go from ‘wide eyed exploration of some amazing new world’ to a more skeptical or nuanced ‘logging in to a platform?’

I’ll try to answer that for myself.

This began as a comment to this blog, but I thought better of it and decided to make it my own article.

Ciaran Laval stated:

“I can still recall going to Club Crobar and meeting people, I never look for a club when I login now, where did it all go wrong?”

I can relate to this and a lot more. There are things I really enjoy about SL, but some of the magic is gone.

For me, run-ins with some very nasty folks started making me feel unwelcome. Whereas before I would gladly go about wide-eyed and ready to greet everyone with friendly abandon. Now when go out there, a part of me wonders if at least one person in the area resents my showing up – and I tend to wait before saying anything or participating.

I’d started participating in more and more discussions about real-life issues and identity-politics (race, religion, political allegiance, and such). In so doing revealing my stance and status as a liberal minority with strong views on some subjects. I revealed a bit too much about certain irrational fears (my ‘fearful reaction’ to tall white men for example) – that caused some offense.

Its been almost a year since I left behind the community where I had such a nasty run-in, but the wounds still run deep – and seems to have forever changed my view from a ‘welcome place to explore and meet people’ over to ‘a place full of cliques and sub-communities, some of which will not like me for what I am, some of which will not care or welcome me – and uncertainty over which is which.’ Debates and arguments occur (and I’ve been more combative since that time) here and there – some a reminder, some just discussion.

But that one moment in time was the transition from innocence over what SL was for me.

Its a transition in SL much like the transition from innocence in real life.

We all go through a moment in our youth that takes us from wide eyed wonder to critical thinker. For some its a memorable event, for others just a flow of life that happens gradually ‘somewhere’. For me, its something I can trace.

I lost that youthful innocence in real life when my white stepfather began beating me up as a pre-teen. Things could have gone worse, but that’s where they went – anger management issues, not ‘something else’. I moved away from there about 2 years after. The father figure became the figure of fear; and I started to look at the world around me with hyper-critical eyes.

Likewise in SL, the magic can rub off with time and imperceptibility, or in some sudden experience.
– Drama seems to hit most people eventually, and I think when it does, that can rub off a lot of the magic. Its a reason why a lot of them quit; and I know some of those I had trouble with hoped they would achieve that with me.

Once you pass that point though – you have to sit down and start thinking about your time in Second Life. And once you’re thinking about it rather than just feeling it, its no longer something magical and wide-eyed to experience.

You start using that critical eye. A critic is never innocent.

Gone are the days of running around Second Life as an energetic ‘neko’ exploring inner dreams by roleplaying as a cat, greeting everyone, emoting purrs, curled up poses, and assorted playfulness. In come the days of being the ‘inner cat’ that stands off to the side and growls under breadth, tossing in a little hiss now and then for good measure. Well – not really. Because that kind of RP still exists in an innocent stage with SL. Sure in a ‘RP sim’ where one plays a character you might see that on a more critical jaded resident – but leave the sim and they shrug off the ‘magic’ like an actor changing out of costume.

I still feel my ‘neko self’ – but its not wide eyed and full of wonder anymore. I don’t let it lose with abandon.

The magic is gone, the innocence has passed. That is probably the point where most people who will quit SL, do so. I didn’t move on, I’m still here in SL, much to the chagrin of those who’d rather be done with my ilk. Still here, but with a much more nuanced view of things.

Perhaps sometimes “too nuanced” – as in, a bit more paranoid about what people are up to than I should be.

I’ve learned recently that I can still meet lots of very nice folks in SL. But its not so easy as it once was, and forging bonds with them is not so quick as it once was.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Luke Heartsdale
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 13:58:49

    I can remember when SL lost its innocence for me. It wasn’t so much about becoming more critical, as I’ve always found value if critical thinking and people willing to explore outside the box and try new ideas. At the time I started feeling the innocence of SL collapse for me was in realizing how boxed in SL can be, and many a time, people being very comfortable supporting that box with blind faith and loyalty, never questioning or wanting to consider the ‘other’ point of view. The whole ‘my way or the highway!’ or ‘this is my sandbox and I’m not sharing with you!’ type attitudes just kinda wore me down. So I rarely go on to SL much any more, save for events for groups I know and trust (and try to avoid those in the groups I don’t know very well, or don’t trust all that much). I think the only reason I do come back is that I do still have a select few friends I care about and like to keep in touch with. But even there, I suppose if I really wanted to keep in touch with them even if I ever did finally quit SL, it would be through email or whatnot.

    But I don’t know. I guess I still hold on to that hope for SL to actually be a place where you can call it ‘Your World, Your Imagination’, and not be just another MMO where you are marginalized even by SL’s own advertising to ‘be a vampire’ and all about farming pet horses, cats, bunnies, fish, and meeroos. Why not also advertise being a neko, a furry, or any and all other possibilities both imagined and yet to be imagined on the grid? And why not promote something other than a quasi-Farmville for SL game? Could even make a quasi-Angry Birds game where you slingshot your own avatar into bricks on floating platforms, too, or, actually allow people to use their imaginations again to make up their own games and stuff like SL used to do.

    Ok, I’m probably getting a little too cynical now. I’m sure there’s still people out there on the SL grid trying to do these things, and not be forced into going premium by the powers that be. There might even be people boycotting the whole premium content movement as we speak, and I certainly will applaud them for doing so. But I think Open Sim and all the various grids that operate within its source code just might become the standard for most of the creative sorts, and those looking back to the more free to imagine days of SL. Aurora Sim just might be the future to all of them, but only time will tell. The hypergrid movement will just have to continue its course and branch out in whichever way it may.


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