Maybe We All Need A SLife Coach

February 21, 2008 at 7:17 pm (Life, Love, Relationships, Second Life)

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“I’m not a therapist, but I play one on TV. ”

Writing this blog has provided me an amazing opportunity to analyze and investigate social behaviors that surface in Second Life. I often receive messages from folks who are grateful to find my insightful behavioral interpretations and constructive advice on how to navigate this complex virtual world. Of course others still discount the important role Second Life plays to many of us and the weight of the relationships that we cultivate in world. But I believe that sentiment is symptomatic of our somewhat cynical times.

According to BusinessWeek, analyst firm Gartner reports that by the year 2011 more than 250 million people will participate in some sort of online virtual world, whether it be Second Life, Kaneva, Weblo, Webkinz, or any number of others that cater to various audiences. And sure, many of those folks may log on to learn how to script, build, or design. But the majority of us are plugging into these online paradises to connect with people. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Is there?

On the surface, the answer is no. People have been forming online friendships since the early days of IRC and online chatrooms. But Second Life and other virtual worlds seem to elicit connections that grow much deeper than surface level. Dr. Benn Konsynski, professor at Emory University, in an MIT sponsored Webcast I attended recently discussed the psycho-social effects of virtual world play and referred to the phenomenon as “elevator effects: direct mirroring pathologies” where we–you and I sitting at our computers–physically react to stimuli felt by our avatars online. We’re represented by cartoon animations of ourselves but we feel the same emotions–and sometimes, I’d argue, more intensely.

So what goes best with a diet of rich emotions and intense feelings all served up in a complex collection of personal connections? A therapist! You laugh, but I see the writing on the wall very clearly: someday soon our society must grapple with the prevalence of these online relationships and the effect they are having on the lives we lead in the “real” world.

For legal reasons I must provide this disclaimer: I am not a therapist by training or trade. All Second Life and virtual world play should be done at one’s own risk. But I will continue to provide observations and–maybe to the chagrin of some of you–sometimes even try to help people see the proverbial forest through the animated trees. Because Second Life is NOT real life. We all have one of those, whether we like it or not. And especially if we don’t like it, we owe it to ourselves to spend less time online and more time trying to make our everyday existence better.

I’m going to leave you with this, my faithful and fascinating friends: Second Life can offer you a chance to reinvent yourself, explore alternate realities, and even find enriching connections with friends and lovers who will help you see yourself differently. But do not distort your reality by using Second Life to escape difficult situations. That will only prolong your pain. Seize today and make it, and your entire real life, the best it can possibly be. And if that doesn’t work, take a Xanax  and call me in the morning.

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2 Comments

  1. Maybe We All Need A SLife Coach said,

    […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  2. Markuz Flanagan said,

    …A SLife Coach, or just a nice evening with a truly intriguing woman. Hope to meet again soon Cindy Disco.

    Mark

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