Sharing a virtual space brings it’s own challenges, and whilst every social platform is going to come with its own fair share of trolls, flamers and spammers, (for whom there are plenty of readily available tools and strategies tailored to dealing with such annoyances), when it comes to SL these are not the only ways in which people can fall foul of proper etiquette.
Many of these inadvertent slips can be put down to what we could refer to as a lack of virtual self awareness, or neighbourliness. It’s a peculiarity of the virtual shared environment that necessitates that we self-police our interactions with those around us. How effectively we manage to do this is debatable – whether through ignorance, choice or sheer bloody-mindedness, most of us at some time or other manage to make some sort of a nuisance of ourselves.
Let’s take the thorny subject of lag, for example. The majority of us are more than aware of our own potential for screwing up the inworld experience of those around us, and to be fair, we will make the effort to reduce that potential – up to a point. Few of us would consider it unreasonable to spend a moment making a copy of our favourite hair or shoes in order to delete the billions of lag inducing scripts therein. Most of us wouldn’t have too much of a problem slimming down our avatar and attachments to attend a busy event or fayre, but start making too many demands and we become a little more belligerent.
What about everybody’s favourite… Gestures. Alright, maybe not quite everyone’s favourite, and therein lies the problem – some people love them and like nothing better than coming up with ever more hilarious, Unicode encrusted, screen filling gesturbations. On the other hand, those very same carefully crafted creations contrive to drive some people right up the wall and back down the other side. The trouble is, those who spout those gestures tend not to see anything at wrong in them, and can be completely oblivious to those who hate them, whilst they in return can’t see how those gesturing could possibly not understand just how annoying they are.
And, if we’re talking about neighbourliness, then let’s not miss the obvious – how many of us have unthinkingly dumped a few sculpted rocks on our land without realising the extent of the massive bounding box that accompanies them, holding our neighbours hostage and depriving them of the ability to enjoy their own land as they wish. Either that, or by accident – or occasionally by design – we may encroach on land that isn’t ours, and that’s never a neighbourly thing to do.
Ultimately, we are in control of just how annoying we are to our fellow SL residents, but it may not always be apparent to us when we are causing a problem. It’s very easy to be blissfully unaware that our actions and activities are creating a nuisance, offending others, or being perceived as downright rude, and often when we do realise, we can be utterly mortified that this is the case. Thankfully, there are a number of ‘helpful’ ways that SL can intervene and prevent us from being a jerk before we put our foot in it, although their effectiveness – more often than not – can be very much contingent upon our attitude and how much we’re prepared to be put in our place.
The more offensive and extreme land incursions can be fended off by judicious use of the appropriate land permissions, although these aren’t foolproof and can be a positive pain in the backside for those who don’t want to exercise such draconian measures on their parcel. Security orbs and such like can help to prevent trespassing, but you have to doubt their value, when a full exploration of any parcel of land is just a camera view away, they’re a bit pointless, as well a being a massive pain in the rear, as anyone who had been summarily and rudely forcibly ejected by one after accidentally wandering onto a protected, but otherwise completely innocuous piece of real estate will attest.
When it comes to lag, we have those ever-so-helpful script counters that cheerfully announce to anyone within hailing distance that Serendipidy Haven has just teleported in with a terabyte of unwelcome scripts and unless she strips down to her undies in 10 seconds will be forcibly sent home. Just for the record, I make it a point of principle never to comply with such demands. As for their grown up Linden relative – the jelly baby broadcaster – I’ve already given my views on that.
As for ginormous gestures, there’s always the viewer’s built in flooding cap, hidden away in our settings – although it’s quite limited in application – but the only real gauge we have is what those around us do and say, hopefully they’re friends who’ll just drop you a kindly IM to ‘STFU!’… Or else some pointed comments from those nearby, along with the realisation that we’ve been muted are just going to have to get the message across!
In the end analysis, a virtual world like SL relies an awful lot on our own ability to self moderate, and if we’re incapable of doing so, then I’m afraid that’s when it has the potential to become antisocial media!
Sod the neighbours, we’re not proud,
Turn it up loud, turn it up loud
Sod the neighbours, don’t pack it in,
Drive “em mad with the bleedin’ din
Toy Dolls – Sod The Neighbours