I’m a pretty laid back person; it takes a great deal to phase me, and I rarely allow myself to get stressed about things in general – it seems to me a pointless exercise to get wound up about things I can do little to change. Things that seem to drive those around me nuts barely trouble me at all. Train delayed… Nothing I can do about it; appointment missed… I’ll have to re-schedule; deadline missed… Probably not really the end of the world; neighbours playing music too loud… Slip my headphones on.
That’s not to say I don’t occasionally get stressed, and when I do, it’s usually for a very good reason, but by and large, I just go with the flow and make the best of the situation.
What also often strikes me as odd are the sort of things that others allow themselves to become stressed about – things that, rationally speaking, should never come into that category. SL is a prime example of this: Both inworld and in the wider metaverse that is centred around SL, I see a huge amount of angst, and wringing of hands about things that really should never even come under this sort of consideration.
Before I plunge headfirst into the fray however, I should probably add a caveat. I’m well aware that relationships in SL, whether romantic or otherwise are a rich source of stress and upset. Emotional attachments to other people – even those with whom we only interact with virtually – are every bit as real as those we form outside SL, and consequently can be difficult, challenging and – when they break down – difficult to deal with. So I accept that when times are difficult between you and your virtual significant other, or BFF, it can be challenging. Although, as you’ll see, I don’t necessarily have a lot of patience for those who have difficulty in separating reality from the purely fictitious.
There are, it seems, a great many things about which SL people are able to become severely wound up – drama is a staple diet for many, but it’s the sheer depth of feeling that people experience that never creases to amaze me. Read though the average message board, listen in to some inworld sniping, or scroll though the comments on Plurk or some of the popular SL blogs, and you can picture the protagonists, red-faced, veins bulging and teeth gritted, hammering out invective on their battle-worn keyboards, as if the object of their ire had personally destroyed their life.
And what crimes against virtual humanity have these unfortunates committed? How about designing a hairdo that looks a little bit like one they sold last year… Or turning up at an event a day late… Banning someone from their club/store/timeline… Pixel whoring… Mixing RL with SL… And much, much more in the same vein. All heinous acts guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of complete strangers whom, it seems, are apoplectic with rage about the injustice of it all.
Calm down, my dears, it’s only pixels!
Then there are those for whom reality and the virtual world have become unhealthily intertwined – those I mentioned earlier. Whilst, I grant you, breaking up with a virtual partner can be a stressful event, there are other types of virtual relationships that some take far too seriously. I may get taken to task for this, but I’m going to say it anyway. Playing at virtual families is just that – playing! Virtual brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and whatever else familial designation you want to throw into the mix are just alternative words for friends or co-players; and, for the record, SL babies are not real!
All of the above should be really simple to understand – it’s plain commonsense and facts, even so, there are many – far too many – in SL who seem incapable of distinguishing between play acting and reality and go to pieces when the virtual ‘family unit’ breaks down. There are times you can apply RL principles to virtual circumstances – this is not one of those times.
Let me give you a real example I came across recently:
‘My SL husband left me for another woman and now he doesn’t want to see his prim babies any more because she doesn’t like it. He’s an evil B*st*rd, how am I going to cope?’
Seriously? My initial – perhaps unfair – thoughts about this particular individual were ‘Your village called – they’re missing their idiot!’ Not particularly charitable, I’ll grant you; but this is roleplay we’re talking about here, and fake representations of kids, right? I can’t think of any reasonable justification for seeing it any other way. Next thing, you’ll be chasing the absent ‘father’ for maintenance payments and support to fund the kids’ college educations! There is a line that’s been crossed here, in my opinion, and it’s a disturbing one.
By all means explore the emotional side of SL, but for heaven’s sake not at the expense of losing your grip on reality. There are some aspects of virtual life that really shouldn’t have that sort of a hold on either our emotions or sense of perspective.
Chill out, take a step back and a deep breath. This is supposed to be fun, folks – an escape from the stresses of the real world, not a world of stress in itself!
That is all!
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing
REM – Shiny Happy People