How Much Can Virtual Worlds Be Blamed for Individual Choices?

by Joan Kremer on November 19, 2008 · 1 comment

in Adventures,Benefits of SL

The blame game: Given our myths and legends, nurse this site I think it’s fair to say that humans have always played it. From the Garden of Eden story, website like this to the tales from Mount Olympus, dosage to this morning’s newspaper, we humans have used every trick in the book to blame anyone or anything else for our own choices. Which makes for great material for writing, but not always for living.

The snake’s fault? Not even close, since this isn’t the Garden of Eden, but the lovely interactive zoo at The Learning Experience.

Anything new is often the scapegoat for blame. A new snake in the garden? Let’s blame him for the bad stuff that happens. A new fashion style like bobbed hair and dresses above the ankle? Let’s blame it for the loss of all morality in the world. A new technology like the Internet? Well, certainly that must be responsible for the downfall of whatever remained of “appropriate values” and morals.

So I’m not surprised that this new online invention called “the virtual world” has become the latest target of the blame game for, once again, “moral failures.”

As one of the few members of my first life social group who spends time in the virtual world of Second Life, I‘m sent all the news stories about “wife murders cyber husband” and “husband leaves wife for an avatar” and “rape and child porn are rampant in virtual worlds,” and now the latest about the British couple who met in Second Life, married in first life, then divorced because of the husband’s subsequent affair in Second Life.

Juicy gossip, for sure! But the notion of blaming the particular congregation of bits, bytes, pixels, and optical fiber that comprises SL for the choices these people made is as silly as Adam blaming Eve for getting thrown out of paradise. And yet, that’s what many people are doing.

Second Life has given me the chance to meet & talk with many published authors, such as Michelle Richmond shown here on the left.

So, as a double-Libra who has an almost obsessive need for justice, I offer you just a few of the many things that have been blamed for “immoral behavior” over the years, and raise the rhetorical question, “huh???”

I find it hard to believe, barring extreme circumstances (e.g., severe mental or psychological illness or disability), that people behave so radically different online than they do offline.  Even hypnosis can’t make someone do something that violates their values.

Traveling into the depths of the solar system at The Learning Experience‘s Planetarium—one of those “not possible in real life” moments!

I have a few friends and relatives who also express concern for my safety, given all the “predators” out there on the Internet, when I log into Second Life as Alas Zerbino.

Well, here’s my experience.  While I do know of avatars who have, quite inadvertently, run around with exposed body parts, I have yet to see one.  I have yet to be accosted or “cyber-raped” or abused or attacked in any way.  Not that I haven’t heard of situations that did sound threatening and/or abusive.  Certainly there are jerks in SL, just as in first life.  There are also people with serious ethical and moral problems.  But there are even more of them in first life, and we deal with that fact.  Early on I discovered this handy little mechanism that I have no qualms about using if a situation in SL becomes unpleasant: it’s called the “Quit” button.

On the other hand, in Second Life, I’ve attended plays, watched movies, met celebrated authorities, gone dancing, snow-skied, surfed, ridden horses, and even traveled into space with taking a single risk involved in stepping foot outside my home.  I’ve developed my writing skills through SL workshops, increased my network in the writing and publishing industry, and earned a bit of income from my SL-related writing.

Sometimes the only way I can get the experience of writing in the outdoors is to go into Second Life.

Sometimes, though, the best part of Second Life is just being able to go sit beside a peaceful waterfall and work on my novel, something that’s possible in my first life only about two weeks a year (between winter and mosquito season).

In other words, Second Life has allowed me to do so many things I want to do in first life, but haven’t been able to for one reason or another.  At the same time, just as it wouldn’t occur to me to cheat on my partner in first life, I sure wouldn’t do it in SL.  Nor would I flirt with strangers there anymore than I would in first life, or take up thieving, mugging, “griefing,” or any other sort of scoundrel-ish behavior at least none that I haven’t already taken up in first life!! 🙂

The Bookstacks is just one of many places in Second Life that support writers and readers in many ways.

So, if you’re a writer considering taking a look at Second Life’s awesome opportunities for writers, don’t let the exaggerations in the news media put you off.  The online virtual world is not the cause of people’s behaviors it’s just the newest kid on the scapegoat block (like that dang snake in the Garden of Eden once was).

*Joan now steps off the soapbox . . .*

But that’s just my experience.  What about you?  I’d love to hear about others’ experience, and especially if you think I’m spouting hogwash, I want to hear your perspective!  I encourage you to add to the conversation, put me in my place, or whatever! — by adding a comment to this post.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Moggs Oceanlane (1 comments.) November 21, 2008 at 3:40 am

Thanks Joan. I love the point you make about other things that have been blamed for the failings of individuals and society. Thank you so much for sharing. I have added a link to your blog in the commentes of my related post.

Moggs Oceanlanes last blog post..In response to ‘Don’t be a virtual ass, rush out this second and get a life’

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