In the context of this blog, or being asked inworld, that question can generate one of two completely different responses – neither of which may be strictly accurate, depending on how truthful we wish to be and exactly how we choose to define age, in terms of our avatar – I’ve written before on the latter topic, which you can find here if it interests you.
When it comes to our actual RL age then I find myself bound to ask the question, “Does that even matter?” – the only scenario I can imagine that it might possibly have some bearing is if you’re intending to arrange some sort of real world assignation with another resident and don’t want a yawning age gap to stand in your way. To a lesser extent, perhaps, you might want to take the same precautions if you want to get jiggy with someone inworld, but to my mind if you’re going to bump pixels with someone you’re never going to see or meet in the flesh, just how relevant is age anyway?
In the space of a few days recently, I’ve been asked my real age on three separate occasions and – to be absolutely honest – I’ve not felt the urge to respond in anything but the vaguest terms: I don’t care how old my fellow residents are, and it really shouldn’t make any difference to anyone else whether I’m in my nineties, or fresh out of my teens. There are a small handful of friends who do indeed know my real age, but they are all people with whom I’ve interacted in other ways, outside of SL. Within my inworld circle of close friends there are probably a core group of us who fall within the same broad age group, but similarly, I have close friends whose real ages range from young twenties through to well into retirement, but if nobody pointed it out, you’d never know.
It’s easy to make false assumptions about people’s RL circumstances based on what we think we know about them inworld. You might, for example, guess me to be older than I am, simply from the type of music gatherings I’m found at in SL – and you’d be wrong: a fair whack of the music I enjoy is more allied to my parents’ era than mine, although I’m equally happy listening to current trends too. Coming to think of it, I was never particularly enamoured with the music that I, and my peers grew up with, instead I tended to pursue rather less conventional musical tastes – although, these days I love all that music I missed at the time!
It’s simply not possible to come to accurate conclusions about people without a rich source of supporting data. If I was to tell you, for example, that I’m currently working my way through watching the whole of Gerry Anderson’s UFO series, there are a number of conclusions you might come to based on that information… that I’m reliving my youth; am a Gerry Anderson fan; I’m into UFOs; I have a fascination with modelling and animation; or possibly, I’ve a fetish for string vests, or purple-haired women. One of those assumptions is actually spot on, but as for the others… you’d be completely wrong. Such are the difficulties we can find ourselves in with SL, not just the perils of assuming somebody’s age, but pretty much in relation to anything and everything to do with them, unless we know for sure we are right.
However, I return to my original question: “Does that even matter?” – and I’d argue that it does not. Many of us choose to divorce some, if not all, details of our real lives from our virtual ones – SL is a form of escapism, and if it permits us be whatever we wish, young, old, male, female, cat, whatever, then it’s only natural that we are going to leave behind some elements of our real selves in pursuit of that virtual persona. What we see on screen – including whatever back story we elect to endow our avatars with – is what we wish to see, and it’s what we wish those around us to see also, whether or not it’s an accurate reflection of our real selves. In behaving this way we are not being deceptive or manipulative, any more than an actor on stage is attempting to fool the audience, we are simply stepping into a role and allowing ourselves and those around us to suspend disbelief for a short while, nothing more.
In many ways SL is like a pantomime… nobody ever protests from the audience that the Dame is really a man, not a woman after all, (or that the hero is actually a woman), and nobody ever shouts out that the Baron can’t marry the heroine because in real life he’s twice her age, and married to boot, (or maybe even already married to Buttons!) The whole point of panto is that it is quite patently not real, and neither my friends – no matter how real it may feel to us – is SL.
Personally, if somebody wants to tell me something about the real person behind their avatar, I feel very privileged – however, it’s not something I expect, feel I have any right to know or have any pressing need to be apprised of. If anything, there’s a very strong chance that I already have my own mind-picture of you which may not bear any resemblance to the real thing but is, for me, who you are…
And that, is good enough for me.
Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated
Remik – Complicated