You spend the whole evening reminiscing with friends about the ‘good old days’ when gambling and sex were rife all over the Grid, camping was the preferred way of raising cash and mesh was just a twinkle in a developer’s eye. You find yourself discussing the quirks and foibles of those long-departed friends in whose company you used to while away the hours – our conversations studded with phrases like, “i miss them”, and, “i wonder what happened to them?”. You remember the sims where you used to hang out and the crazy things you used to do – places that can no longer be found, builds that exist only in your memories and those fortuitous few pictures in your inventory you thought to take to capture those happy moments, long ago.
SL has this habit of telescoping time: in the same way that virtual day and night pass in a few short hours, the virtual years fly past, with us barely noticing their passage, until one day we click upon a long-forgotten landmark, only to find our destination has gone… we see a name in our friends’ list, and realise with a jolt, just how long since they last logged in… we visit a once-favourite location, to find it changed beyond recognition, no longer bearing any resemblance to our memories. And yet, can it be only a few short years ago that all of these were part and parcel of our daily SLives, such a short space of time that the memories are still fresh in our minds?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Much as we would like sl to be the real thing, it is not – it is an interlude, the filler between the cracks of a real existence; the talkie bit between the music of life; the night out at the cinema; the sleep between each morning’s waking, when bleary-eyed and still not quite with it, we stagger from our beds and get on with the business of everyday life.
That doesn’t mean we have to meekly accept the march of virtual time and that the passing of the old world we once knew is an inescapable inevitability: for within our inventories and our hard drives, the past lives on; in the images, the chat logs and – of course – in our memories. In many ways we are the custodians of the past. We can choose to move with the times and ruthlessly clear away and consign to the trash all that has gone before, or we can elect to preserve the virtual past in whatever way serves to have meaning for us, because… who knows, one day we may miss it.
And who is to say that the memories of a virtual life are any less meaningful than those of our real lives?
Take me out tonight
Where there’s music and there’s people
Who are young and alive
The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out