There’s a woman who occasionally catches the same train as me. She looks almost exactly like Amy Farrah Fowler, or at least what I imagine she’d look like if you’d accidentally put her in the boil wash and she shrank to half her original size. I’d surmise from her usual attire that she’s an office worker, or something along those lines, and I’d put her around the mid thirties age bracket.
She takes a micro scooter to work.
I don’t mean that her office job requires her to keep a small, two-wheeled, foot-propelled vehicle at her desk at all times, although I’m prepared to accept that night be the case; rather, she employs her little aluminium conveyance in exactly the same manner as other people use the more usual bicycle. Nothing at all wrong with that, of course, except my brain struggles with the sight of a smartly-dressed, thirty-something woman, jumping off the train and then scooting her way down the path, leg pumping like a terrier dreaming about chasing rabbits. It’s something that simply feels out of place and a little odd.
It’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t merit a second glance from me in SL, indeed I’d have no trouble accepting the strangest and most way out methods of getting about – and would happily employ them myself – but it seems that anything out of the ordinary in the real world is less easy to take on board, even if it is practical and legitimate, if a little unorthodox.
When I think about it, there are a whole range of things that I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at inworld, but would likely have a hard time assimilating in a real life context. Some things just work in a virtual world, but would be a complete anachronism off the Grid. We’re far more adept at accepting the unusual in SL than we like to think we are elsewhere – indeed, there are probably many things that we tolerate, accept and even indulge whilst logged in, that if faced with the same thing off-world we’d find uncomfortable, challenging and off putting in any other context. Perhaps it’s because we know what happens on the tour bus, stays on the tour bus – what goes on in SL, stays in SL – in that super-safe, unconditional environment, where we can hide behind a mask of anonymity and are unconstrained by the conventions and restrictions that we may face in our everyday real lives.
The problem with taking something that we perceive as strictly inworld and taking it outside that context is that the attendant risk is significantly increased. Even if that risk is simply the fear of being seen as different, it is something that we’d rather avoid, if at all possible. Even the simplest things, like the style of clothing we choose to wear, the music we listen to, and yes – our chosen mode of transport, may attract derision, exclusion and alienation, should we attempt to replicate our virtual preferences in the real world. So we avoid doing so, and consequently, whilst inworld is certainly not the same as what you’d see in the real world – even if, secretly, that’s exactly how we’d like to be in both worlds.
I suppose that’s a good thing though… After all, what would be the point of SL if there was no difference between it, and real life?
Say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance