The fact that i spend an inordinate amount of time blogging about my virtual life doesn’t necessarily mean that i’m a particularly outgoing, socially mobile and gregarious person. Weird though it might seem my privacy is one of those things i value the most. Unlike a great many people involved in sl, i don’t Plurk, tweet, or spew verbiage across the forums – you won’t find me on Facebook, Flikr or Pinterest, either as myself or in the form of my avatar. In fact, apart from a weekly foray to the 100 Word Story Podcast, you’ll only ever find me inworld, or in the pages of this blog.
Even inworld, i can be frustratingly difficult to pin down. My friends list could be described as ‘minimalist’ and, when exploring the Grid, i tend to shy away from busy places. Even crowded stores freak me out, and i’ll frequently turn on my ‘autoresponse to non-friends’ option, if ever i feel there’s any danger of a random stranger engaging me in conversation. It says, “Do i know you? Please don’t cold call me! Try saying ‘Hi’ or something in open chat, it’s a lot less intrusive, and far more polite. Thanks.” – i hope that doesn’t come across as rude, but it seems reasonable to me.
You may well be wondering why the heck i’m spending my time in a social network, when the last thing i’m likely to be is social! And that’s a reasonable question. Why, for instance, don’t i simply spend all my time hanging about, completely alone and undisturbed in my own standalone Opensim installation, where i have free reign to do whatever i want, unlimited prims and land, and no pesky strangers cramping my style?
Good question, and the answer is complicated. Even though i’m not a social animal, i really do value the sl friends i have, and – when i’m in the mood for company – it’s those people who really make sl an incredibly special place. Then there’s all the amazing things that people do to express themselves in sl: some of my most enjoyable times are spent seeking out, exploring and marvelling at what other people have done – that’s something that simply doesn’t exist in a world you’ve created yourself, and in which you’re the only resident. Then there’s shopping!
There’s something else that sl offers in abundance, which although attainable in rl, is much more difficult to find: solitude.
The chances are that if you do happen to stumble across me in sl, you’ll find me tucked away in the corner of a quiet Sim, far from the madding crowd, quietly contemplating. SL is one of the few ‘places’ where you can find an empty spot, or trundle along the road less travelled and simply experience what it means to be away from the noise, the stress and the clamour of other people and the rat race. Obviously, sl is not the countryside or the wide open spaces of the rolling planes and sprawling wildernesses that the real world has to offer, but it’s a lot more accessible.
We are not, as a rule, terribly good at the whole solitude thing – when there’s little to do, but sit and absorb our surroundings, we become distracted and fidgety, even bored. We get withdrawal symptoms if our phone is not to hand and we feel the need to drown out peace with music and inane conversation.
We may be evolving into a species that can only function properly when it is interconnected, networked and constantly communicating, in one form or another, or else we lose out identity, can’t keep up with the crowd and fear being abandoned by the wayside. If that is the case, then i’d please like to stop the bus, wave goodbye and find my own way along the road – and don’t worry… i really don’t mind travelling alone.
My name it means nothing
my fortune is less
My future is shrouded in dark wilderness
Black Sabbath – Solitude