All of us at sometime or another crave a little solitude; speaking as one who lives alone and can often feel a little resentment when visitors conspire to invade that privacy, you might think it odd that I should ever want to seek out ‘me time’, since I have plenty of it at my disposal almost every day, but even I sometimes feel the need to retreat from routine and be alone with my thoughts – and, as so many of us do, I find that release in SL.
Just lately, I’ve been doing more of the things I used to do when inworld: Exploring, driving the mainland, and occasionally rezzing a train and following the tracks of the SLRR. It’s partly because of the changing social scene – it seems that many of my friends are now away at clubs most nights, and while I do enjoy socialising, music and dancing, it’s not something I want to be doing every time I log in, but neither do I want to be moping around at home, twiddling my virtual thumbs. So instead, I’ve been heading off around the Grid in search of excitement, adventure and really wild things.
Except, such things seem to be in short supply these days, as do fellow avatars. Now, I know that SL is a big place, but it’s also started to feel a terribly empty place too. Take a recent trip that I took along the length of Highway 2 and 2A, where from start to finish – a good couple of hours – I saw precisely zero other road users, zero pedestrians, and a grand total of zero passers-by of any other description. I only received a single “Hi, how are you. Looking hot, babe”, random IM, from someone whose precise location I was completely unable to identify, and according to the radar I didn’t come within shouting distance of anybody throughout the whole journey.
I admit that at least some of this will have been down to my own reticence to mix with strangers: If I see a pile of stacked green dots on the map, then that’s a location I’ll take pains to avoid, (although even then, they are often up in the sky and out of harm’s way); I also accept that running to UK time means that I miss a good percentage of those who login Stateside, but even so, I would expect to see a few more signs of life when I’m out and about than I do.
Some would say that this is a sign of the decline of SL, but I’m not so sure this is the case. I see plenty of evidence that there is still a healthy inworld demographic – yes, there are vast swathes of abandoned and empty land, especially on the Mainland, but there are also a huge number of private sims out there, and even on the Mainland, somebody must be paying to maintain all those expensive properties and the extraordinary number of airports, that line the roadside! So I’m not convinced that the population is in decline. What I do think is happening is that the way in which people are interacting with SL may have changed somewhat.
To begin with, the glory days of build-it-yourself are over. There’s now a huge amount of good-looking, lower impact, reasonably priced mesh available which people are turning to to build their own little piece of inworld heaven. Being able to pick up your property on Marketplace, drop it on your parcel, and you’re done, means a whole lot more time that you don’t have to spend glueing prims together, tweaking seams and uploading textures – time that you can be spending away from your inworld home, up in the sky, bopping away to techno tunes.
If you’re not techno inclined, there’s shopping too… And I’m fully aware that there’s always been shopping to be done, but it’s subtly changed these days, and again mesh has to shoulder at least part of the blame. The days of picking something you like, buying and wearing it are long gone – there’s a whole load of fixing alphas, playing with HUDs and generally hunting down clothing that matches your body of choice that we never had to get involved with before. I personally get extremely irritated when I spot something I’d love to wear, only to find that it’s designed only for Slink, Maitreya or a whole host of other mesh bodies, none of which will fit my own, fuddy duddy, non-mesh, old-fashioned frame. Even picking something up for free from a hunt is no longer the fun it used to be… Wasting time to find that elusive item, only to find I can’t wear it and the shoes turn my feet into big white blocks. And mesh bodies are the reason that so many people are spending so much time static, up there in their changing rooms in the sky, fiddling about for hours on end with HUDs, trying to get the perfect fit, rather than employing their time exploring and having fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of mesh, but I don’t think it’s the wonderful thing it could be and I’m more than happy to pin at least some of the blame for the emptiness that surrounds us on its influence. Then again, if it’s solitude we’re seeking, well there’s plenty of it out there…
I’d just like a little more of the ‘Life’ bit in Second Life!
Solitude sometimes is
Life that no longer exists
Solitude sometimes is
When there’s nothing left to give
Manic Street Preachers – Solitude Sometimes Is