It was a warm toilet seat moment… you know how it goes: you’ve just nipped to the loo and as your bottom hits the seat the ambient temperature of plastic against skin tells you that the previous occupant departed mere moments earlier, barely long enough for their body heat to dissipate from the very spot you are now sitting. It’s the pinnacle of discomfort and a rather unnerving experience.
Not something you’d imagine would ever crop up in sl, but you’d be wrong as i found to my misfortune just the other day. As usual, i logged in at the last location i’d been which, through force of habit, tends to be in or around my bedchamber. Well, i say bedchamber – it’s more a multi-functional apartment, with a bed in the middle of it… well, when i say an apartment, it’s actually a cave, but it’s home-sweet-home to me and i happen to like it!
As usual, things tend to take a little while to rez, and it’s quite fun to try to work out what all the grey blobs and wacky surfaces are eventually going to decide to be – it’s not always as straightforward as it might be, and on this occasion i was puzzling over the grey and red blobby things that appeared in the middle of the bed. My puzzlement didn’t end when the world finally decided to make itself known… a breakfast tray, complete with croissant and orange juice, set neatly on top of the duvet was distinctly out of place – did i even own a breakfast tray? i didn’t think so. Equally puzzling was the book i’d settled down to read the previous night, before logging off, had inexplicably vanished. Also, inexplicably, my bedclothes were no longer the white damask that went so well with the snow that had recently replaced my ceiling, but a nasty stripy brown design that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 1970’s billiard hall.
All became abundantly clear after a swift once-over of my bed’s menus – some swine had been fiddling with my options, changed my sheets and then settled down to a relaxing morning repast, whilst snuggled up in my bedclothes: ewww… warm toilet seat moment!
The truth is, i’m pretty easy going when it comes to privacy issues in sl and – with one or two exceptions – there are things i’m perfectly happy to tolerate in the virtual world that i’d have some problems dealing with in the real world. If i choose to set up home in a cave, without doors, on land to which i’m happy to allow free access, then i also accept that it is inevitable that visitors will occasionally poke around my possessions when i’m not around. In fact, i’ve gone out of my way to accommodate the curious and those who want to kill some time enjoying my land, and you’ll find plenty of hidden nooks and crannies, places to sit and relax and things to look at, all over my parcel, and you’re most welcome to make use of them. i’m even content for people to have a nose around the cave – as long as they don’t do it when i’m at home – it’s something that i accept will happen from time to time.
But to take liberties, by crashing in my bed and not even hiding the evidence… that’s going just a little bit too far!
Some things, even in sl, i consider to be sacrosanct – skyboxes that people have evidently placed to avoid prying eyes, changing rooms, and beds in what are quite evidently people’s homes. These are all taboo as far as i’m concerned, unless there’s a specific invitation to come and visit, or jump onboard and whilst i realise that’s just my own sensibilities coming into play, i would hope that – as a general rule – it’s a standard that most people would adhere to out of plain common decency. Not so, it appears.
It’s not just the principle either – this is one of those ‘uncanny valley’ situations that straddles the line between real and virtual: an uncomfortable place to be, and one where it becomes somewhat difficult to articulate our feelings about. On the emotional side, we feel that somehow a line has been crossed, whereas the rational side says we’re being hyper-sensitive about nothing. It’s in these circumstances that those completely irrational, yet somehow perfectly rational thoughts begin to surface: my bed has a selection of ‘cuddles’ menus – not that i’ve ever had cause to explore them – but the thought that a complete stranger may well have taken the opportunity to give them a thorough road test – possibly with a partner in crime – is distinctly and uncomfortably creepy and distasteful.
It feels intrusive – it feels wrong.
Deep down, i know this is only sl and that virtual things are only co-ordinates and pixels, but when we take those virtual things and organise them in such a way that they are a projection of ourselves and become a personal and safe environment that we come to rely upon, you’d think people would have the common decency to respect that.
Well, wouldn’t you?
I could sleep
When I lived alone
Is there a ghost in my house?
Band Of Horses – Is There A Ghost