One of the things that fascinates me about sl is how people view their avatar. When you consider that our ‘interface’ with the virtual world and those around us is that collection of pixels and textures which represents our virtual persona, the way in which we choose to style and present our avatar is surely an extremely important consideration?
Yet, i frequently see avatars that appear to be only a few steps evolved from noobhood gracing the forms of established and experienced residents and i find myself wondering if, for these people at least, appearance isn’t all that important in the virtual world. Perhaps those same people in their real lives are required to be suited and booted, or dressed up to the nines on a daily basis and the last thing they want to be fussing over in sl is their make-up or fumbling their way through an overstuffed virtual wardrobe. Maybe these people are involved in sl for reasons other than looking like catwalk models – if all you ever do is build on a sky platform, why bother with constructing a carefully crafted avatar? Beauty is, after all, far more than pixel deep, and ultimately i don’t really care what you look like – it’s the mind and the character behind the avatar that i connect with. So, it’s not something i’ll ever lose any sleep over – but it does intrigue me. (And who am i to talk, still stubbornly wearing a skin made in 2006!)
Then there are those for whom image is everything – their avatar is so finely honed that everything is pixel-perfect. Skin, shape, eyes, hair, make-up and outfit work together in harmony to produce a vision of perfection. Granted, that perfection doesn’t necessarily have to be described in human form, or to human proportions: but whatever the outcome, it will be the end result of hours of hard work and shopping – an investment in time and money: a labour of love.
Image is, of course, important – whether in the virtual or real world setting – we can use it to express ourself, (think Lady Gaga’s outfits); project a specific image, (Vladimir Putin’s shirtless escapades); or give a not-so-subtle boost to both our own confidence and that of the people we’re trying to impress, (that killer business suit we use for interviews). Does the way our avatar look have a similar effect in sl, or is the way we portray ourselves digitally more akin to either an idealised or fantasy version of our real selves, created more for our own aesthetic pleasure than that of others?
So, where do i fit in all this? Somewhere in the middle, i think – i like to look my best in sl and i try hard to pay that little bit extra attention when it comes to style, but i don’t go overboard, neither am i out to impress anybody. Just as in rl, i’m imperfect – and i’m not that bothered about covering up any of those imperfections. Even so, i will admit to spending a far greater proportion of my time, and greater effort making myself look presentable in sl than i do in the real world. It’s not been unknown for me to spend anything up to an hour getting dressed up in sl, just for a trip to the shops; in stark contrast to my real world routine of grabbing whatever work clothes are next in the wardrobe and being out of the house in 20 minutes on a weekday, whilst at weekends it’s a case of slouching around in whatever’s comfortable. Certainly i dress up occasionally for special occasions, and i do put a bit more effort into the whole ‘getting ready to go out’ routine, but generally the endless agonising over which eyeshadow to wear whilst trawling through mountains of shoes is a practice reserved mainly for sl.
It might seem odd to routinely pay more attention to one’s virtual appearance than the real thing, but if – as i’ve already mentioned – our avatars are indeed the idealised extensions of our own personalities, then perhaps it’s not so surprising. It stands to reason that the idealised me should look better, dress more expressively and spend more time on appearance than the rather normal, unexciting, less-than-perfect, real world me.
Besides… i think there’s something deep down inside all of us that never really grows out of playing dressing up!
We are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words won’t bring us down, no, no
We are beautiful in every single way
The Lemonheads – Beautiful