It was the recent realisation that i haven’t seen one of my sl friends for more that the briefest of spells in several weeks that caused the inveterate worrier in me to come to the fore. It hasn’t helped that i’ve been stupidly busy, both inworld and in that other place, for a couple of months along with the small matter of a rather large ocean inconveniently dividing us, on the other side of which they tell the time differently. Even so – now that things are calming down a bit for me – i can’t help but feel a mild twitchiness because that connection, forged by sl, seems to have become a little more tenuous than i’d like. It hasn’t helped that other regular means of communication outside sl have been uncharacteristically quiet, and… well you know how it is: you think to yourself, life/work/family commitments all take their toll, other priorities come along… but there’s always that nagging thought, ‘i hope everything is ok’.
Then again, i’m rubbish at maintaining any sort of relationship with anyone – ask anybody on my friends’ list inworld when was the last time that i initiated a conversation with them, rather than the other way round, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an affirmative response; as for rl, let’s just say that i’m the sort of person who could feel crowded if living alone in a lighthouse. i have the most appalling tendency to drift away from people with apparently no effort whatsoever.
Perhaps it’s guilt that i’m feeling – the knowledge that i’ve been distant towards a friend, although unintentionally, is causing me to to feel neglectful and ‘bad’ – i’m not denying that could be true, but then again, i do genuinely care about my friends – both sl and rl – even if i’m not always terribly good at showing it. Of course, i could be completely wrong – just because you don’t see someone for a while, or your paths – for whatever reason – simply fail to cross for an extended period, doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. Here the inherent anonymity that sl grants can work against us – since, for most of us, our real lives are kept conveniently out of harm’s way whatever might befall us, whether disaster or good fortune, is kept on a strictly need-to-know basis.
To illustrate the point, i have another friend who has been conspicuously absent from sl for some time now. Those inhabiting the screen, pixel-side, might be forgiven for thinking that some woe has befallen them, (or their computer), or that they have just fallen out of love with sl. The simple fact is, for this particular person, rl has chosen to smile on them in a most benevolent way and, in consequence, the real world has become a far more exciting, challenging and fulfilling place than the virtual. Where once they may have sought to escape from reality by spending time in sl – as so many of us do – they have now escaped from the grip of virtual existence to a better and more vibrant real world.
It’s never wise to assume we know what is going on behind the avatar.
It’s a fact of SLife that places, people and circumstances change – we can’t dictate the path that the vagaries of anybody’s virtual existence should follow; even our own journey through sl is subject to the whims of real world fate and conditions that are beyond our control, but quite apart from that, what if sl really is no more than a temporary, fleeting escape from the very real encumbrances of our day to day existence? Are we all, at some point, required to wave a pixellated ‘goodbye’ to the virtual world before logging back in to that place our bodies are forced to inhabit?
Put in those terms, you may be forgiven for thinking that dreaded day is something to be feared, but that is to forget that life isn’t always a bad thing… maybe, just maybe, it’s sl from which we should be seeking to escape, to rejoin a world that, for all its faults, bad management, glitches and failures, might well turn out not to be such a bad place after all.
We gotta get out of this place
If its the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
‘Cause girl, there’s a better life
For me and you
The Animals – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place