This is one of those topics about which you never quite know how people will react: some will find it deeply divisive, even offensive, whilst others will agree whole-heartedly, and still others will be completely ambivalent, so let’s just see what ensues.
It’s often been said that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family – a position i’ve never entirely agreed with, if i’m honest. True, it isn’t possible to choose who you may be related to by blood, but it’s certainly possible to choose how closely you maintain those ties – if at all – and conversely, the way in which we define ‘friend’ has many connotations, not all of which are positive, and not all of which might we have a lot of say in.
As for myself, both my family and friendship ties have changed over the years. On the family side, without going into specifics, as a child we were pretty close-knit, with frequent large family gatherings involving cousins, aunts, uncles and a wide variety of lesser relations, (some of whom i swear were made up, just so they could claim to be part of the family!) More recently, we’ve dispersed and although close contact is maintained between many of my relatives, i’ve chosen – rightly or wrongly, it doesn’t really matter – to become rather distant and disconnected: these days i rarely come into contact with even my closest relations. As for friends, once there were many – some incredibly close – now they are very few and far between: again, my choice.
The general situation in sl is somewhat different – in the virtual world it is entirely possible to choose both your friends, and indeed, your family… and it it this latter point that some members of our community might find difficult to stomach, whilst to others it’s the most natural thing in the virtual world.
Perhaps it’s the real world influence on my own views that makes the practice of identifying with an sl family somewhat incomprehensible and just a little weird. It’s logical that someone who, in rl, has few familial ties will struggle with the concept of creating pseudo-families in the virtual world. i’m not saying it’s wrong or freakish, but it’s also not something i always feel entirely comfortable with.
The degree of engagement with the principle, along with the depth of it can influence me in different ways too. Whilst i have very little difficulty in accepting and understanding a profile pick that might show a whole group of people, captioned with something along the lines of: ‘Bez, Bobo, Bettie, Billie and Bernie… my SL sisters for ever. Loves ya. We rock!’, i’ll have a whole different gut reaction to a profile that has different picks for each ‘family member’, each with its own little paragraph of brotherly/sisterly/otherly love… ‘My mom Brenda, the sweetest mommie in the whole wide world – what would I do without you? Wub you 4eva’
It’s only roleplay, you may argue – fair enough, i have no problem with roleplay, but my brain is programmed in such a way that i can relate far more easily to someone whose virtual persona is to roleplay a thunder god from the halls of Asgard, than someone whose idea of virtual happiness is a husband, 2.4 children and a breedable cat. (Even more so when said someone flaunts a selection of rather dubious groups and a profile picture of themselves wearing little more that a couple of strips of studded leather – again, nothing wrong with such things, but they just don’t sit comfortably in my mind with the wholesome family image).
It all comes down to ‘Your World, Your Imagination’, of course – and, if it rocks your particular boat, who am i to condemn it? After all, far better to have functional virtual family ties than dysfunctional real family ties!
It’s just that, even after all this time as a resident of Linden La La Land, there are still some things that perplex and befuddle me… and, when you’re a blogger, sometimes you feel compelled, every now and again, to ask those questions.
So, feel free to explain it to me, because if there’s one thing that drives me bonkers, it’s being befuddled!
Hush now, baby, baby, don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
Mama’s gonna keep baby cosy and warm
Pink Floyd – Mother