Before i go any further, i should perhaps make it perfectly clear that this is only my own opinion; extremely scantily researched and the nearest that it’s got to a rigorous and impartial process of peer review is me reading it through for spelling mistakes, over a cup of coffee. Which, in my book, makes it pretty authoritative!
Depending on which source you rely on, the average age of sl users is anything between 22 and 32 years of age – how reliable this data may be is pretty questionable and, depending on your particular sl habits and hangouts, your own personal circle of friends and companions may be completely at odds with this age range. Speaking personally, i’d say that most of the people i tend to spend time in sl with are more likely to fit within the 35-50 age range and there may well be a few who are even crumblier!
However, spend any time in the company of these people and the impression that you’ll get is that they’re considerably younger than their actual ages – of course, the age you choose to depict yourself through your avatar is entirely up to you and need bear no relation to your real age, but it’s not just our physical attributes that work to lower our perceived age. In sl, the reserve and reticence that we tend to feel in rl as we grow older isn’t quite so evident and so our behaviour, the way we dress, the activities in which we indulge and the way we express ourselves may well not fit the conventions and stereotypes associated with our real age. In short, in sl, we’re quite likely not to act our age.
What effect does this have on the ‘real’ us? Personally, i think that acting younger or, for that matter, being around people who give all the signs of being young at heart, gives us rl feelings that are very much akin to those that we are feeling vicariously through sl. i can’t speak from experience, but i’d imagine that a 60 or 70 year old, (and there are a fair few of them knocking around sl), whose avatar appears to be in their twenties, rides mopeds at breakneck speed, spends the nights partying into the small hours and whose speech is peppered with ‘Yay’, ‘Lol’ and daft gestures is bound to feel some corresponding positive vibes as a result – and you don’t have to be particularly long in the tooth to enjoy that feeling, either! In fact, the very nature of sl probably encourages us to feel younger… we can get away with doing things that we’d have engaged in when we were youngsters but maybe can’t get away with anymore, either because it’s not the social norm in rl, or we’d feel uncomfortable indulging ourselves; or there may even be practical physical reasons why we wouldn’t – rheumatism and aching joints have a lot to answer for!
What about the things we can get up to in sl that make us feel younger because they help us to recapture our youth? The music, the clothing and the sights and sounds that we grew up with allow us to relive those happy times in sl, and we can share them with others who grew up with them too, as well as with those who weren’t fortunate enough to be there first time round – again, this can have a remarkably rejuvenating effect.
Then there’s the challenges that sl constantly presents us with – social, mental, linguistic and technical challenges that keep our minds active and working. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that people who engage in activities that stimulate the mind not only maintain mental agility but continue to learn, develop and grow in cognitive ability, even though their bodies might be showing all the signs of wear. It’s cumulative too – the more we put ourselves in situations where we have to use a measure of mental dexterity, the more able we become – sl is perfect for this, providing us with opportunities and situations where our brains are constantly engaged and on the go. Even the most straightforward scenario can challenge our minds beyond anything we might have to deal with on a daily basis in rl. Take a typical Friday night at Soul Mods, for example: The banter moves so fast, on so many different levels that newcomers can feel completely overwhelmed – old hands however take it all in their stride, managing half a dozen off-the-wall conversations at once, chipping in with witty gestures and well observed comments at opportune moments and having a couple of IM conversations at the same time, whilst still enjoying the music and camaraderie! Believe me, that can give you a mental workout that knocks Nintendo brain training into a cocked hat!
Then there’s the technical side to sl… strange how the functions on our washing machine may defeat us, yet we’ll spend hours fine tuning the hundreds of different preferences available in our viewers – more than that, we understand what they do and how to get the best from what is actually a pretty complex piece of software.
i’m sure that all of us, old and young alike, sometimes have days when we feel terribly old and jaded; we slump in front of our computer screens, login and – within minutes – we’re kids again… having fun, getting up to mischief and generally not in the least acting our age – and that feeds back into rl too.
i’ve lost count of the number of times i’ve heard other people say how they’ve broken into a smile or a chuckle when they’ve recalled what’s happened recently to them in sl – i’ve done it myself, many a time – and with that laugh or smile, even if it’s just felt inwardly, comes a rush of endorphins… the stuff that makes us happy, the stuff that makes us feel good, the stuff that makes us feel young, foolish and happy!
None of us is getting younger in rl and there’s not a lot we can do about that; but sl breaks all the rules – not only don’t we have to age but, like Benjamin Button and Dorian Gray, there’s nothing stopping us from getting younger every time we log in!
So, this is Christmas and what have we done? Well a heck of a lot as i look back over the previous year’s posts, but let’s look to the immediate future. i’ll refrain from commenting on Rodney’s announcements posted today – you can probably guess what i’m thinking and, i dare say, i’ll have plenty more to say on them in due course!
As for the holiday period, well i think it’ll be pretty much business as usual for the blog – although i will be posting a special Christmas entry tomorrow, even though it’s Saturday. So, i’ll see you tomorrow then? If i don’t catch you before Christmas, have a good one!
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old
The Who – My Generation