25 October 2008

RL and SL: Escapism or Extension?

In some ways, Second Life is a simple form of escapism, a way to explore one's more adventurous or dark corners - at least that's the more accepted psychology behind it. I suspect at times that, instead of escapism, SL actually commands one to be oneself - only to the nth degree, as if the virtual world lends license to make oneself into a caricature of oneself. A 3-D parody, if you will.

I would be hesitant to completely dismiss the 'escapism' theory, but I would put forward that escapism blends too easily with rationalization.

I have a good mate on SL called Beth who, in real life ("RL"), is seeing a married bloke and has been seeing him for several years. The two of them share anniversaries and money, like a real couple, only without the 'real' or the 'couple' bits. In RL, her man often begs off seeing her, as he has a real family to attend to. As in any relationship borne out of deception, there are trust issues galore. Is he seeing someone else? Will he find someone new? Is he telling the truth? As a veteran of that kind of arrangement, I know you can't get past trust issues. If the foundation of a relationship is a betrayal, then one can hardly hope for anything not tainted by some sort of distortion.

Beth and her man are on SL as well. They owned a club for a while, even (his idea, her money - which seems to be a trend). I visited there once at the behest of another girl, Candy, who was a dancer there. Beth's man, who was also present, almost immediately instant-messaged me, hoping he and I could spend some, ahem, quality time together.

Months later, Beth and I had a cup of virtual coffee and she told me she was concerned about her man seeing someone else behind her back. I was sympathetic, as she was quite upset, but I really just wanted to shake her and say, 'what do you expect, really?' Beth is a sweet girl and a kind soul, but somewhere along the way, she found it acceptable to be The Other Woman. Her bid to the The Main Woman in SL doesn't seem to have been too successful. Anyway, she asked for my help, and I suggested I simply talk to her man and see if he makes a move, and then take pictures of whatever followed. She didn't go for that - she didn't want to anger him. I think, rather, she didn't want it proven that she's dating a jerk. No girl does, really, certainly if such a revelation would involve witnesses.

Beth wanted me to chat up this mysterious other woman, and I agreed. I went to her island, or sim, but never saw her apart from a guy who Beth suspected was an alternative avatar of her man. Bit complicated, eh? So I haven't talked to the woman - and am unsure if I will. The cuts in RL have bled into SL, and there's little relief I could offer.

And then I look at me. How much is my SL persona just a continuation, or cartoon, of my real self? And how do I like being my own parody?

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