Passing the time

How much of our time do we dedicate to sl? i ask because i recently read about an sl resident who had spent 18 hours inworld over the course of a week to work on a project  – whether that time was spread over the whole  week, split into bite-sized chunks or accomplished in one marathon session, (surely not?), i don’t know, but i do know there would have been far more to it than just the time spent inworld – i’m sure there were a large number of additional hours, spent offline, dedicated to the project too.

That’s a heck of a lot of time to be giving over to a virtual world in one week – 18 hours is, after all, getting on for half an average working week and, when you add in the additional offline time that would have been surrendered to the project and take away time for essentials like sleep, that’s a large chunk of someone’s real life spoken for over a relatively short period, by anyone’s reckoning. It begs the question: how much is too much?

Sometimes it feels like i spend an inordinate amount of time in sl, or engaged in pursuits connected with it. However, when i sit down and take the trouble to work it out, the amount of time i actually indulge in the virtual world isn’t nearly as great as it first seems. Somehow, i also manage to juggle a full-time job along with all the other essential rl activities, like housework, (some would question whether that’s essential!), shopping, sleeping (possibly essential!), eating and even fitting in down-time and other recreational pursuits, (aka. slobbing out), in addition to the time i do actually spend in and around sl. There’s even the odd occasion when you’ll find me twiddling my thumbs and complaining that “i’ve nothing to do”… consequently, taking all these factors into account, the amount of time i dedicate to sl is far less than i first imagined it to be and in fact, if i wanted, i could spend far more time inworld than i do, possibly even double it. The question is – would i ever want to do that?

i’m well aware that there are people who spend substantially more time inworld than i do – how much time we decide to commit to virtual life is a personal choice, even so, i firmly believe that the key to getting the most from sl is the ability to strike a happy balance between the virtual and real worlds.

Recently, a conversation with friends led us to consider the possible future of virtual worlds; inevitably, the possibility of true ‘plug & play’ virtuality was discussed – a scenario where we would literally plug our consciousness into sl, effectively abandoning our real, physical bodies and substituting a completely immersive virtual experience for our existing  observational perspective – perhaps even full-time.

It seems an attractive proposition, but much as we may think of it as the ultimate means of escape from the rat race, i’m not entirely convinced. To go to those extremes tips the balance far too markedly for there not to be serious repercussions. Let me explain – whether we spend a couple of hours a week, or most of our waking moments in the virtual environment, we always retain the option of logging out and getting on with the business of living in the real world, and that’s extremely important: For a great many of us, sl provides a means of escape or retreat from the pressures of rl… indeed, there may be times that if we didn’t have the safety valve of ‘logging out’ from rl into the less demanding and more forgiving virtual world we might find ourselves folding under the strain. Conversely, we also need to be able to break free of the virtual world on a fairly regular basis if it is to remain effective as a bolt-hole from reality and retain its vitality and therapeutic properties. Too much of a good thing is not necessarily desirable.

In fact, it’s somewhat less cut and dried than that – most of us mix sl and rl to some degree for the very same reason that we may seek to escape rl by logging on. For example, bemoaning our rl problems to our sl friends can be extremely cathartic but without all the negative strictures that would apply if we were to put ourselves in the same position with rl friends. Similarly, we may rationalise and work out sl frustrations, (which do, of course exist), by escaping sl; blogging about them or simply getting a good night’s sleep away from the virtual world. Having the two separate environments between which we can mediate our problems and frustrations is an extremely effective mechanism for keeping us rational and in control. Consequently, a world in which we were exclusively tied to either the virtual or the physical environment would never offer that necessary escape which we need to function at our best.

How much time living virtually is too much? i have no idea, but i’d say that the point at which the virtual world becomes more burdensome than the real world is probably too much. Too much sl is every bit as bad as too much rl… balance is everything.

s. x

We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life for me and you
The Animals – We Gotta Get Outta This Place 

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