Who is Lucy? Surely you know Lucy? Well, OK maybe you don’t – I certainly don’t, but I’m going to hazard a guess that she’s a beautician of some variety, and I’ll go further and surmise that’s she’s been away from work for a while – maternity leave perhaps? – and has returned, much to the relief of her regulars, who can now relax in the knowledge that they can now have their ears waxed, bikinis lined, and nails buffed by a consummate professional!
It’s nice to be missed, and there’s something about SL that seems to foster a sense of kinship: If you should happen to leave an inworld conversation for even the shortest duration, without returning to a chorus of ‘WB’s and ‘We missed yous, it’s rather touching to know that people are looking out for you and that when you’re not around, even if it’s just to make a quick cuppa or have a pee, your absence is noted and your return is welcomed.
It goes further than that, of course, amongst friends. Be missing from SL for a week, maybe two or three, and the alarm bells start ringing. In the absence of information to the contrary, people begin to worry, concerned that something untoward may have happened in RL; anxious enquiries are made, and hopes that everything is fine are expressed. Thankfully, the progenitor of all this angst usually returns a short while later, somewhat bemused by the fuss, since they did mention they were off on their holidays only a short while ago. Internet outages can be particularly perplexing – when an absence from SL is coupled with an absence from Facebook, Twitter and alternative methods of keeping in touch, we do tend to imagine the worst, and it’s a great relief when absent friends suddenly reappear, cursing their misfortune and ISP in equal measure.
Then there’s the ‘Big Quiet’ – when someone simply drops off the virtual map, leaving no clue as to their whereabouts or fortune. Occasionally, word will surface that they are OK, but SL no longer fits into their life; other times, sometimes years later, they’ll reappear as if there’s nothing at all unusual about vanishing for an extended period then popping back as if nothing had changed.
There are times, of course, when our worst fears are realised – when the Big Quiet extends across both worlds and someone we knew will never cross our path again. Those who have experienced that pain will know just how difficult it can be, and you have my heartfelt sympathy.
Let us not focus on the leavings, however, but rather on the returns – and recently, there seem to have been rather a lot of those in my own SL. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen friends return from all sorts of absences… Home moves, internet failures, hospitalisation, unexplained disappearances, and difficult real life stresses, and on each and every occasion it has been a pleasure to welcome them back. Mostly, when people return after a sojourn outside the virtual world, they’re simply happy to be back and pick up from where they left off; on other occasions, people return specifically to seek something they’ve not been able to find in the real world: Solace, comfort, friendship and help – and I’d like to hope that the relationships that are forged in SL, virtual though they may be, are able to fulfil and sustain such a vital role. Actually, I know they can – sometimes far more ably than some RL relationships.
There are some people who will remain forever in my friend’s list, even though they may have been absent from SL for years. I still miss them, and I know that if they did, by some slim chance, ever reappear, I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in giving them the biggest welcome back ever. I live in hope.
Everyone you meet wants to meet you again
Everywhere you go you leave something behind
Meet the dark souls gonna make them shine
Lucy the castles gonna blow your mind
Twisted Wheel – Lucy The Castle