I’m constantly amazed at the sheer amount of time that people spend digitally connected or virtually absorbed. Only today, I’ve watched a whole railway platform, crowded with around a hundred people, of whom only a very few weren’t deeply engrossed on whatever was occurring on the mobile phones and tablets in their hands. People walk along the street, barely aware of the traffic they’re dodging, whilst engrossed in reading their Kindles, and then, when they get home from the daily grind, the first thing they do is log on to their smart TVs, before settling down to an evening of Netflix or zapping mercenaries in the latest online war game.
The virtual metaverse, once the preserve of hard-core gamers, geeks and mathematicians has become the staple everyday fare of everyday people; and I’m still surprised at the glimpses I get of what those people are up to. The young woman in a flowery, floaty dress, chunky beads and henna tattoos – the epitome of earth child hippie – head down and fingers flicking over the screen, thoroughly caught up in a high speed driving game. What about the old chap in a tweed cap and handlebar moustache, head nodding away to the tunes flooding out of his ear buds… I sneaked a look: Iron Maiden! There’s the businessman in striped shirt and sharp suit, obviously checking important emails and negotiating high-powered deals… But no, he’s actually setting up his ultimate fantasy football team. Nothing is quite as expected.
And that’s how it goes now: The digiverse, having become so open, accessible and everyday, has drawn the masses into its maw, and having the privacy of practical anonymity, individual screens and with personal piped music, they’re finding forms of escapism that previously they might never have dabbled in or even known existed. I’m pretty sure too, that most who have taken the path down this particular rabbit hole also have their indulgent, guilty little secrets that nobody else knows anything about. My own guilty secret is SL – yes, I’m sorry to say that nobody in the outside world knows that I live a double existence. No-one knows I have an SL account, my avatar name, or even knows this blog exists – if they do, it’s entirely by twist of fate and a coincidence – I may well work and socialise with people who know me inworld, or count themselves amongst my readership, yet have no idea who I am in RL.
Why do I keep my SL under wraps? For much the same reason that so many people keep the details of their real lives similarly obfuscated from the people they share their virtual space with. Firstly, it’s my alternative world, and what I do with it, how I relate to it and what it means to me are all very personal, and not for public consumption. Just as importantly, I want to feel safe and secure, and having been stalked, quite scarily, through social media before, I feel very strongly that remaining incognito is of great importance.
However – and for some reason, I’m almost ashamed to admit it – there is also an embarrassment factor that come into play too. I’m old school, and in the back of my mind I still feel that there’s something inherently odd about a grown up playing fantasy games, especially online ones. Whether it’s perfectly normal, acceptable and even trendy these days to spend one’s spare time absorbed in gaming and play, I’ve never quite been quite able to overcome the feeling that it’s not something to shout about, and that it’s best kept under wraps and out of general sight.
Which is why you’ll never see me logging in on the train, chatting about SL amongst friends, or spilling the beans about this blog to my nearest and dearest. In a world where it’s become perfectly normal to be open and public about one’s virtual exploits, I’m still the one hiding away in a cellar, out of sight, furtively staring at my screen and munching on cheesy snacks!
Who says you have to move with the times?
I can’t speak without an interception.
This is private, please get off my line.
Please tell me when I can have my privacy.
I’d like to meet the girl who’s always talking
When I’m speaking on my party line.
The Kinks – Party Line