There are some things about sl that I’ve never quite got to grips with – spiral staircases, driving and carrying on more than one IM at a time spring to mind, but there are other aspects of our virtual existence that perplex me.
One such perplexity is the way in which people come and go.
There are people with whom we become familiar; they’re almost part of the furniture – we see them around, share activities with them, become friends with them. We may regularly spend time with them for months, even years, then suddenly – without warning – they disappear without trace. Initially we’re surprised at their absence, then concerned until, with the passing of time, we become accustomed to their absence, resigned to knowing they have gone – we hope for happy, rather than the not so good reasons.
More time passes, they slip from our minds and SLife continues much as it did before.
Then, one day – many months later – a familiar name pops up on our screen and our long-departed friend is back, and it’s as if nothing had ever interrupted the flow. We bump into them in the same old places, we share the same old activities and – somehow – the question that’s constantly on the tip of our tongue never gets asked… “Where the hell have you been all this time?”
Life, of course, does get in the way of our digital existence: circumstances and priorities change, responsibilities shift and interests wax and wane. It’s inevitable that there will be times when the needs of the real world drag us away from the lure of the virtual world. It’s also true that circumstances inworld can, and do, occasionally drive people away – sometimes it’s better to get out of a difficult situation online by dropping off the Grid entirely. These things i understand, but i’ve never become attuned to them, particularly when somebody makes a surprise reappearance from beyond the ‘Big Quiet’ some considerable time after they first disappeared.
Perhaps the way i feel about such things is tied to the way in which i, myself, tend to deal with life’s changes – once something has run its course, or i’ve come to a point where to continue would be fruitless or unhelpful, or even if i’ve just become bored or tired of something, i’m the sort of person who will withdraw completely from the situation, but once i’ve moved on, it’s a rare occasion indeed that i’ll ever return. Whether it’s relationships or recreational pursuits, once i’ve closed the door on something, it tends to stay shut – i’m the sort who’ll throw away the key, move away from the area and delete anyone in the locality from my address book. Drastic, maybe, but i do find a clean sweep can be very therapeutic, and burning bridges isn’t always a bad thing – in my opinion, anyway.
Less dramatically, when i tire of things – and sl would probably fall into this category – they tend to be consigned to the scrapheap, where they’ll remain until the next Big Clearout. Occasionally i may stumble across an old relic of something that once held my interest and toy with the idea of resurrecting it, but mostly the hassle of trying to remember passwords, finding all the cables and bits and pieces to make everything work, or simply the thought of putting other things aside whilst i get back into the swing of things is enough to put me off even trying. So if i was to leave sl for any reason, the chances of me returning at any time in the future would likely be slim to non-existent.
There’s something else i’ve noticed too – those who do return to sl after an absence tend to be repeat offenders, once they’ve come back it’s only a matter of time before they vanish again on another extended excursion into the real world, only to reappear back inworld, picking up from where they left off, without missing a beat, reminiscent of James P. Cannon whose first words on being released from prison after two years internment were: “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted . . .”
Underneath it all though, i have this nagging feeling that perhaps what worries me most is that all these people who disappear from sl for extended periods may actually have far more interesting real lives than myself!
Running into you like this without warning
Is like catching a sniff of tequila in the morning
But I’ll try, I’ll try to keep my food down
That’s quite an after-taste that you’ve left now that you’re not around
Crash Test Dummies – I Think I’ll Disappear Now