Balancing act

peopleEffectively managing real life and virtual commitments can be a bit of a minefield, particularly for those of us who find it something of a struggle to juggle priorities when it comes to deciding where our attention should best be directed. We know that RL should come first, but there will inevitably be occasions when having fun inworld is far more compelling than doing the washing-up, sorting out the week’s shopping, or taking the dog for a walk. Then there’s the hours of lost sleep, rushed meals and missed phone calls that can often be the outcome of inworld over-indulgence. Provided we can, at some point, redress the balance, we can probably justify the odd surfeit of SL, but far too often that’s something we simply fail to achieve.

One of the problems that we can face when we’re regulars inworld is that, just as in RL, we fall prey to schedules and the expectations of others. We have our regular haunts, which we attend with predictable regularity, at which we spend our time surrounded by people whom we count as our friends and acquaintances. We can become almost part of the furniture – we have our appointed spots and usual activities, and consequently not only does our inworld presence fall into an agreeable and predictable pattern to which we willingly subscribe, but – without any conscious acquiescence on our part – we also become part of the unfolding script of those around us.

To me, I feel privileged to be accepted into the virtual lives of others to the point at which I’m pretty much a permanent feature in particular settings… And when I’m missing, it’s both noticed and can even be a cause for concern to those for whom I’m an expected fixture. Note to self: If I know I’m going to be absent from my usual inworld activities, make sure at least somebody is warned in advance!

quiet spot_001However, in some respects, SL is no different to the real world where, on occasion, we can fall into a regular and predictable pattern of activity that can exert something of a controlling influence over that part of our life. Without realising what has happened, it can be something of a shock to realise that there are those whose company you may be sharing who, to some degree, hold an expectation that you fulfil the unconscious role you have assumed – a player in the screenplay of routine. Whilst this is just fine as long as you’re happy to comply and fit in, it can make it extraordinary difficult to take a break, do something different, or ultimately, move on to pastures new. We can even feel a sense of guilt when absenting ourself from a regular activity – we feel that others are relying on us, that we are somehow letting them down and that we are breaking an established and inviolate rule. So we’ll turn up, even if we have a headache; even if it’s been a rough day in work when all we want to do is slob out in front of the TV with pizza and ice-cream; even if we have somewhere else to be; even if we just want to do something different. Even if – perish the thought – there might be something going on in SL that we’d rather do instead.

Of course, the same can be equally true in the virtual world, although with a couple of twists that can conspire to make things even more emotionally difficult. That club where we have our own designated spot on the dancefloor; the entertainment or meeting where we’re a regular feature; the weekly get-together where your presence is pretty much a done deal… We get into the habit of being part of these things, and we become part of everybody else’s habit too – so heaven forbid that we should go AWOL!

Yet there will be occasions when – just as in RL – we’re not in the mood, have other things to do, or just fancy a change. The big difficulty, of course – the twist that is unique to SL – is that if we do log in and go shopping instead of socialising, all our friends that we’ve abandoned know we’re about – never a comfortable position to find oneself in. And let’s not forget that we’re living a double-life… Outside of the virtual world, there’s a whole host of things that might demand our attention at the critical moment, and sometimes, RL simply has to come first.

Jon Lydgate famously said that “you can’t please all of the people, all of the time” (in Olde Englyshe, of course) – whether that’s in RL or SL, it’s a truth that holds firm; and similarly, whether RL or SL, I’m afraid that sometimes you simply have to please just one person…


s. x

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give, and you give
And you give yourself away
Fun Fiction – With Or Without You

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