IncoMing: Too Much of A Good Thing

October 22, 2007 at 6:48 pm (Communication, Friendship, Life, Love, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , )

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I have another confession. And this one might actually point to a character flaw. For those who think I suffer from perfectionist delusions of grandeur, you should be gratified to read this post.

Now that I’ve built it up it seems I need a drum roll. So here it is: My name is Cindy Kesey and I am a habitual communicator. I find it physically impossible NOT to respond to an incoming message from a friend. This inclination is loudly demonstrated in Second Life through my inability to ignore incoming IMs (instant messages to those of you who live in the jungle and aren’t yet plugged into the world of immediate contact). But it also rears its head at home, at work; anywhere someone may attempt to correspond with me.

For example, both my personal and work email inboxes are always clean. Meaning simply that I always–and I mean ALWAYS–read incoming messages as soon as I receive them. I may not respond to them or even delete them immediately, but I read them the minute they arrive. Perhaps I do this because I continue to be amazed that others find me important enough to send me a message. But more so it’s probably because, like a toddler whining desperately to stay up past his bedtime, I just don’t want to miss anything.

In SL this tendency has caused me my share of problems. In world I often suffer from “blinking tab syndrome,” an affliction where I receive multiple incoming messages from a variety of friends across the grid at the same time. Many people I know would simply say “Hi…I’m busy. Let’s chat later.” But not me. I attempt to respond to every one no matter what I’m doing, who I’m with, or how many IMs I’m already responding to at that given moment. That means I can have multiple conversations going at once, both in world and out. And that is more often than not the case.

Some of you reading this are probably having an “Aha!” moment right now. This finally explains why it sometimes takes me eons to respond to you when you ask me a question or try to engage via chat. Maybe some of you already have this problem yourselves and struggle to maintain multiple simultaneous conversations. And then there are those of you are sitting there thinking, “what the hell is this Second Life and why does this crazy woman keep writing about her meaningless virtual experiences there?”

The answer to that last question brings me to back to my original admission. Because I think this impulse, while manifested mostly in world, actually speaks to a larger personality proclivity: the inclination to amass a large group of friendly acquaintances versus the propensity to cultivate fewer but more meaningful friendships. I prefer to think I can do both: enjoy a plethora of enriching friendships that are as intense in connection as they are abundant in number. But I know there is a price to popularity and many of my most favorite people sometimes suffer when I’m distracted by copious conversations. I’m sure it appears on the receiving end that I don’t listen or connect with folks as I would if I was sitting across from them over a cocktail. And that is probably true.

So what’s a girl to do? Does being a SL social butterfly mean I’m doomed to miss out on deep connections with folks I care about? I certainly hope not. For that is why I’m there in the first place. I’ll guess I’ll just simply have to try harder.

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Managing Your Second Life Brand

October 15, 2007 at 6:11 pm (Life, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , , , , , )

Brands

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you probably know by now I tend to focus my literary lens on the interpersonal relationships many of us experience within Second Life and the implications those relationships have on the lives we lead outside that virtual universe. So lest you think today’s blog title is totally whacked, let me assuage your fears: this is not yet another blog about marketing your SL scripting, clothing, animation, DJ, or in-world building business. What I’m talking about here is your personal brand–the “you” you want to present to the SL world.

Some of you may secretly scoff at the relevance of this notion. But for those of you who spend any time at all “SL profiling” you know what I’m talking about. What is SL profiling you wonder? Is that like racial profiling? In a sense, yes. It is the act of perusing a prospect’s profile to see who or what he or she is all about. We do this in search of some common ground–something to reference when initiating conversation perhaps. And–sigh–we also probably make judgments about those folks based on this info too. That’s why I say it is a bit like racial profiling, or the act of making assumptions about a person based on their race.

Our SL profile is one of the few tangible ways we allow the essence of our personality to shine through to those around us in this virtual environment. Like sunlight poking through window blinds meant to block it out, the information in our profiles often reflects the true individual behind the keyboard. Even if our presence in SL is purely role-play, our profile captures that through the groups we belong to. The same holds true if we’re live music lovers, BDSM buffs, funk fanatics, or sex-crazed Second Lifers.

When building our profiles, we often include people, places, philosophies, or even photographs we find meaningful. Some folks include famous quotes or song lyrics that resonate. In my profile, for example, I include a quote from Dr. Suess that has functioned as my personal mantra for many years. In my tab about my RL, I include a photo of a tattoo on my back that I share with my SL avatar. Many people choose to include gushing tributes to their lovers and friends in their “picks” tabs. I do that too, to a degree. However my picks also feature people and places that have captured my attention. All these details combine to illuminate more of the shimmering personality that hides behind my avatar image.

Knowing your profile provides a perfect place to package yourself by the information you do choose to share, I encourage you to take your time when constructing the contents. Include elements of your persona that make you unique. I’ve seen countless profiles that include things like “looking to meet new people and have fun.” Excuse me, but Duh. Most people don’t visit SL to be loners who look for lameness. Instead consider incorporating an amusing aphorism or pose philosophical questions that prompt others to respond. Because, as they say, sometimes you only have one chance to make a first impression. And the personal brand you project in your profile could make the difference between a happy hello or a glib goodbye.

Stay tuned to a subsequent blog where I will explore the concept of profile politics.

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Let Yourself Go

October 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm (Life, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , , , , , , , , )

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Ever been to a live concert? I’m not talking the symphony or that traveling version of Cats you took your nephew to see. I’m referring to a real live rock-n-roll show, complete with clouds of pungent pot smoke and that posse of pierced pre-pubescents. Now, remember those annoying people in front of you who refused to sit down and quietly watch the performance? They spent the entire concert on their feet dancing, drinking, and generally enjoying a grand old time. Well, I hate to break the news to you but I’m one of those people. I find it physically impossible to sit still during a live concert. And I’m violently unapologetic about that.

To fully enjoy most of my extracurricular activities, especially entertainment, I tend to give myself over to the experiences entirely. I prefer to lose myself in the activities and become a participant rather than an observing bystander. This is true of concerts, movies, and even Second Life, where one’s experiences are enhanced the more he or she is able to suspend disbelief and go with the flow of the fantasy.

I’m aware of those out there who struggle to release their white-knuckled grip on reality and slide into the sensational spectacle that is Second Life. Sadly, some even stand in judgment of those of us who do delight in delving into this dream world. I recall a recent conversation where a friend categorized a Friday evening spent in SL fantasy “funk land” as pathetic (ya’ll know how I feel about that word!!). Yet I wonder, would this same friend feel as sanctimonious toward an entire evening spent watching Sex in the City reruns or even perusing the plethora of internet porn sites? I think not.

For some reason there remains a lingering social taboo around Second Life. Normally light-hearted, fun-loving folks–people who boogie their butts off at RL concerts and marvel at movies even– seem reluctant to venture into the fun of the game by enjoying things like dancing, relationships, role-play, and sex. Even gamers, who have a rich history of playing just for the fun of it, often scoff at those who find pleasure in SL. And while this may seem merely the minor musings of a fantasy-averse few, I argue it is indicative of a larger issue.

Forgive my soap box here, but what I see is group of self-appointed cultural “experts” who hold other people to their own subjective standards of the merits of certain forms of entertainment over others. This smacks of the argument between the value of “high art” vs. “popular culture” and to me is no different than the societal elitists of yesteryear–eloquently captured, for example, in books like Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence–who relish in their role of determining what’s ok or not for society at large. But who gave any one person or group the authority to decide what is trash and what is treasure for the rest of us?

I don’t mean to rail against anyone here. I merely want to suggest that we all challenge our assumptions and let down our inhibitions once in awhile. So I’ll take the gloves off now and extend an olive branch over the chasm that divides those of us who fully experience SL and those of us who do not (realizing, of course, this is subjective too). I think we should all join hands, let down our guards, and find the fun in the SL fantasy. Let’s fling off those chips on our shoulders and let our hair down together. I promise if you join me at funk Friday, you will have a rockin’ good time. Who knows, you may even be compelled to jump up from your chair and boogie your own butt off!

Funk Fridays are held every Friday night from 7:00pm – 9:00pm (LT) in Second Life at the MMAC, a cultural arts center devoted to cultural arts of all flavors.

Check out this killer tune by Trowzer Boa featuring the shenanigans of a familiar cast at Funk Fridays.  

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