We’re gonna get you!

Would a virtual doctor be a metaphysician? Similarly, would a Second Life shrink be a SLychiatrist? i only ask because i’m sure there’s vast sums of money to be made from offering therapy to residents suffering from some of the ailments endemic to sl… in particular, that scourge of the virtual world: alt paranoia.

It seems to be one of those things that regularly does the rounds anywhere linked to sl, whether it’s inworld, on the forums, in blogs or splashed across profile feeds – it seems that pretty much anyone can fall victim to the peculiar paranoia that alt accounts seem to breed. Even the most well-adjusted of us are apparently not immune – perhaps through bitter experience, or maybe it’s just one of those things – like yawning and giggling helplessly at inappropriate moments, like funerals – that is naturally infectious.

Whatever the reason, i can’t help but be fascinated by the way in which it seizes hold of people, particularly since it seems i’m pretty much immune to the condition, even when all those around me are completely ensnared.

So, what is alt paranoia?

It is the fear, irrational or otherwise, that another resident is masquerading in alt form for supposedly nefarious reasons. Now, these reasons may range from the completely spurious and totally unfounded, to the deep suspicion that somebody really is spying on you, attempting to subvert what you are doing or is simply an outright griefer, using a disposable account to avoid the obvious consequences. There is, however, rarely any way in which these suspicions can ever be proved – leading to ever-increasing paranoia and a profound, yet irrational fear, that any newcomer, particularly with a noob avatar, IS OUT TO GET YOU!

Such is the power of alt paranoia that it can run rife through communities and social groups, instilling fear and suspicion, although it may be totally unfounded. Then again, some people do unfortunately create alts to spam and cause trouble, although, to be absolutely honest they can be pretty hopeless at it. Here’s a couple of top tips to such types…

  1. If you’re going to create an alt to cause mayhem and trouble, it’s all a bit pointless if it’s immediately apparent who you are. At least be a bit creative and put on a false moustache, a phoney accent and don’t do the same old boring things you did before;
  2. Cloak and dagger is really, really uncool and does nothing for your credibility… posting things on people’s profile feeds like: ‘You don’t know who I am, because I made a new account for secret reasons that I can’t say in public… I might tell you inworld if you promise to destroy your chat logs and never breathe a word to another soul’, are frankly hilarious and simply tell the whole world that you’re completely bonkers!;
  3. Nine out of ten people can not only spot an alt, but can work out who it really is faster than they can read this sentence.

i have nothing against alts and i’m sure that the vast majority of alts in sl are of no concern to anyone else and bear absolutely no malice whatsoever. Nevertheless, the mere mention of the word can send shivers down the spine of some people and, frankly, it completely baffles me. Like the monsters under the bed, they only have whatever power over you that you allow them to have and, unlike the monsters under the bed, if they do turn out to be real, there’s always the mute button!

Dr. Haven is available for counselling sessions, one-to-one therapy and can provide rehabilitation through cognitive behavioural therapy for anyone suffering from alt paranoia or any related craziness conditions at very reasonable rates. Please call for a quotation.

s. x

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”
Joseph Heller, ‘Catch-22’

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3 Responses to We’re gonna get you!

  1. That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad (okay, it’s still funny). Another group of paranoids are the “voice only” crowd who militantly assume that if you won’t submit to a live voice test then you are obviously posing as the opposite sex, or just generally a degenerate nogoodnik. Their intense paranoia about being “fooled” is highly entertaining. However, I think I came across something that can top all that on the whackadoodle scale …

    I walked into a group of (mostly gay) fellows at a beach venue a few years ago and one guy said (in open chat), “Oh, watch out, here comes another faker.” When someone asked him what he meant he replied, “He isn’t wearing any ‘junk’ so he’s obviously a woman pretending to be a guy.”

    This poor creature was sitting there, with transparencies turned on, judging everyone by whether or not he was wearing invisible genitals (I have always regretted not asking him if size, or vendor of origin, mattered). Definitely in the “I don’t know whether to laugh from shock or cry from pity” category. Still gives me a chuckle, however. 😀

    • i’m sure that Jung, Freud and all their cronies would have had a field day if sl had been around during their lifetimes – you can’t help wondering just what is really going on in the minds of those who choose to permit themselves to succumb to unwarranted paranoia. Take the ‘voice only’ thing – if someone’s avatar is pleasing to the eye and their manner is sufficient to seduce you then, provided neither party is ever made any the wiser about the gender of their rl puppeteer, it could be argued that such things are completely immaterial. Certainly, there are trust, integrity and honesty issues that could be raised, but even in the real world, if you’re going to enter into any relationship – particularly of the casual liaison type – you’re going to face the same issues, albeit with somewhat different concerns, but they’re no different in essence. It’s very much a case of ‘caveat emptor’!

      Not sure what to make of Mr Invisible Genitals Spotter – sounds like a woman to me!

      s. x

      • Well, I think misogyny (or misandry, in some cases) have a lot to do with it. But you are right that gender shouldn’t matter at virtual-world level. Its a mind-to-mind / personality-to-personality relationship venue and gender bias should not blind one to worthwhile relationships.

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