Is Second Life a guilty pleasure?

July 25, 2007 at 1:22 am (Guilt, Second Life)

Let me state upfront that I find guilt utterly useless as an emotion. That’s not to say I don’t feel it. I just fail to see its value. So today, when I asked a friend to describe a guilty pleasure and he said Second Life, I felt somewhat defensive. A guilty pleasure to me meant eating an entire 1/2 lb. bag of M&Ms (no, I’d never do that) or my answer, buttered popcorn. But someone close to me to considering Second Life a guilty pleasure elicited a knee-jerk reaction akin to goosebumps from a swim in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest.

So what’s so guilty about enjoying Second Life? Is it that we can say “Five more minutes, honey” with complete confidence and turn around 4 hours later wondering where our night went? Is it the stirring of dormant emotions prompted by enticing relationships with various men and women we may have just met?

My friend said it was about spending so much time on something so frivolous. But must we really spend all our time productively? I often ask that of myself as a parent when my son, who has been working productively at school all day long, asks to watch tv or play on the computer. Can a little downtime really hurt?

Being an extrovert–meaning that I get my energy from other people–I  look at some of my time on Second Life as a welcome opportunity to pump a little extra energy into my reserves. But mostly I just really enjoy it. I feel like a better person learning the things I do from other people or exploring a part of myself that might have gone unchartered.

So I think my problem goes back to the word “guilty.” It serves no purpose and, I argue, should be stricken from the English language. So should the word pathetic, in my opinion, but we’ll save that for another day.



  1. argyle said,

    Well f’n said!

    I suggest that your friend didn’t mean that sl is frivolous. If that’s what meant, then he’s a dork.

    Sl is actually important. So are some of the relationships residents build there. For all the reasons you gave, and in more ways than most skeptics would likely understand.

    Pleasure? Definitely. Guilty? Here’s my more nuanced take on that. I don’t always go inworld after everyone in my house is asleep. SL is a pretty self-focused pleasure for me. I’m in there, wit’ all my sl homies, dancin’, buildin’, talkin’ and, you know, viewing art exhibits. Meanwhile, my dwarves, for example, are reading or something like that, when I should probably be using the computer to watch Nick Cave videos on YouTube with them (that was a request I just got a couple minutes ago, from Thing 2, while I was inworld), or interacting with them in some other way.

    If I could keep it under control, and not get sucked into sl for 5 or 6 hours at a stretch, which does sometimes happen, I’d hardly think of it as particularly guilty. A little downtime is one thing. A quarter of a day is entirely another. A question of degrees? I dunno. Mebbe so.

    “…mostly I just really enjoy it. I feel like a better person learning the things I do from other people or exploring a part of myself that might have gone unchartered.”

    Oh, yeah. Me too. And I’ll add, perhaps sharing parts of yourself that you might never have revealed to anyone in rl, finding out that the world ain’t gonna crash down around your head when you do, and walking back into rl stronger because of that realization. That’s beyond pleasure. That’s a gift. And it’s very, very good.

  2. Trow said,

    Cheers to Cindy and Argyle…right on…lots of good comes out of it….but…there are times I feel guilty when i look at the clock and say OMG, where did the day go?!?!?!!?

  3. Just me said,

    I agree that what you feel when you spend hours on SL should not be guilt, unless of course you are making the same mistakes in SL that you make in RL. Or if you are ignoring your child(ren) when they need you. Even then I am leaning towards using the word “stupidity” versus “guilt”. But that could be a whole new blog.

    As far as removing both guilt and pathetic from the English dictionary, I can’t agree. I just think most people use the wrong words to describe feelings and emotions. I am a great example. English is my 3rd language, but I don’t know what the first 2 are. I think there is an appropriate use for the words pathetic and guilt, it’s just that most people do not know when to use them. So don’t hold it against the words, hold it against the people.

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