Could You Be The Reason He’s Having Second Life Sex?

October 26, 2008 at 6:59 pm (dishonesty, Friendship, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, )

Yesterday was a good friend of mine’s RL (real life) birthday. We were excitedly discussing all the fun things he’d done and I asked him how his birthday sex was. (We all get birthday sex, don’t we??). He sighed and told me of the ravishing way his wife of 25 years had rocked his mind with his birthday sex–I’m kidding. He begrudgingly lamented on how he’d laid in bed for quite awhile waiting for her to initiate (she’d told him earlier in the day he’d be getting some) and finally, following several awkwardly silent minutes, she sniped “well, are you just going to lie there?”

While this scenario might sound shocking to some of you, it is indicative of a stark reality many married couples face today. Ladies, it appears we have locked our legs closed–and in many cases our hearts as well–and in doing so shut our husbands off from the critical intimacy they need to feel connected to us. And it is this lack of intimacy and connection that is causing husbands to flee into the arms–and legs– of other women, whether in real or Second Life.

According to a study documented in a new book by Gary Neuman titled The Truth About Cheating, it is estimated that 1 in 2.7 men will cheat on their wives or partners. The study also found that 92% of cheating men say sex wasn’t the primary reason for the affair. It was an emotional disconnection, brought on by a lack of appreciation for them from their wives, that led men down that often rocky road.

For many men who are having sex with their wives on a regular basis, they often remain the initiators and instigators of physical intimacy. This also dampens the connection felt by a husband for his wife. Where we may have been sexual vixens before marriage and children, many of us wives are now not the sexual dynamos we once were. Our sexy underwear and short skirts have been replaced by comfortable cotton panties and sweats.

Enter Second Life. SL has evolved for many as a virtual dating and sex chat room, complete with amorous avatar animations that might have even the most liberal of us fanning the crimson heat of our blushed faces. But what it really provides is a playground where people can find new and interesting friends. And often those friendships are evolving into romantic relationships. Why? Simply because these new folks are finding the men and women they meet fascinating. And that is a feeling many married men haven’t felt from their wives in…well…what seems like forever.

In addition to these new lovers lavishing long sought after praise on their new online paramours, in Second Life ladies are also playing the part of new girlfriend–donning their avatars in sexy clothing and speaking sexy phrases men have often only heard from their wives in their fantasies.

So what does this all mean? I assert that if we want to create an environment where our husbands won’t feel tempted to try a tryst in real or Second Life, we women have to get back in the game–the romance game. It’s time we start admiring our husbands for all they DO contribute and stop demeaning them for what they don’t. It’s also time that we get our sexy back and woo our partners into the bedroom, whether we feel like it or not.

We should invest in some scrumptiously sexy lingerie to show him we care. If our sexual drive has diminished to a dribble, we must seek professional help. Because it is completely unrealistic for us to expect our husbands to abstain from sex or to be the sole initiators of physical intimacy. That only serves to breed bitterness and boredom.

Am I saying here that men are entirely blameless when it comes to affairs? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we women must recognize our contributions to the climate and the power we have to help create an environment so savory our loving husbands wouldn’t want to stray.

RESOURCES:
Sex & Intimacy: What Men Want by David LeClaire
The Sex Starved Marriage by Dr. Michele Weiner-Davis
Besides Sex, Other Reasons Men Cheat, CNN

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Breaking Up is Hard To Do–And Even Harder in Second Life

August 18, 2008 at 2:39 pm (Communication, dishonesty, Friendship, Infidelity, Integrity, Life, Love, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , )

Love and loss are central themes of thousands of blog posts peppering the web. And many folks–whether Second Life avatars or real humans in the flesh–use their blogs as a platform to publicly process their parting-of-ways. One of the trends I’ve noticed when witnessing these abrogation of affairs is that many people experience some definitive act–like betrayal or dishonesty–that prompts them to dissolve their previously fantastic flings. And, as painful as these breakups are, those experiences follow a natural grief progression that helps the healing process proceed. Yet there are many other instances when lovers leave their flames in far less salient circumstances. And these situations, I assert, carve wounds that lie exposed to the elements longer and, are thus, harder to heal.

As you know, I’ve promised never to bore you with gory details of my own real or Second lives on these blog pages. But between myself and other friends, I’ve recently observed–or experienced–romantic relationships in both SL & RL that have either withered or been abruptly dismantled, leaving one or more of the partners reeling in the breakup wake. These experiences–or “soul extractions” as my friend calls them–are a bit different from the typical breakup because there is no one person or event to blame. And this leaves the lover(s) stunned and unclear what to do next–and thus unable to move through typical stages of grief.

As I discuss these scenerios imagine yourself, my dear reader, as the subject of the experiences. Now picture yourself in the twitterpated excitement of an intense new romance; your mind curious and thirsty to know him or her better and your heart aflutter at the anticipation of this amazing new person. You blush at the mere thought of them texting you sweet nothings and spend your days marveling at how lucky you are they have suddenly graced your life. Now imagine this goes along for quite awhile…the intensity increasing with each exchange. You may even enjoy real glimpses of your lover; photos emailed or even smiles exchanged via webcam in the darkened corner of your home office. Then one day….nothing. Crickets. Dialtone. You reach out repeatedly with no response. And you feel numb. And confused. And hurt.

Now imagine you’ve met another sweet sweet friend–one who makes you laugh until tears stream down your face and your stomach and side muscles ache in a good way. You forge a close friendship, share details of who you each are and how you each came to be, and begin to care about what happens to them during their days and nights not spent with you. Then, because you are conscientious people, you realize you might care a little too much. And you mutually decide to part ways. Their absence in  your life rips your heart open leaving a gaping hole where that joy used to be. And you feel numb. And confused. And hurt.

As I read this back it sounds like a I’m having a pity party. I assure you I hate those and would never attend one even if I was invited as the guest of honor and my favorite band Galactic was playing and Christian Bale was there alone and wanted to meet me (ok, well maybe then). I’m merely curious as to why it seems so difficult to get over romances and the wonderful, provocative people we come in contact with when we do it for the right reasons. It appears to me that, because we can’t logically get angry (since we don’t have real reason to be)–and anger is a very useful emotion in the grief process–it prolongs the pain and compounds the process of healing.

So maybe this means we need to get mad–not at the people but perhaps at the situations. Take a moment in our grief to throw around that blame and rage we’ve bottled up inside. And then move on and look at what we’ve learned about ourselves in the process and through the experience. And, even after that, be grateful we’ve lived life–both real and virtual–so fully and felt so deeply. Some people don’t even get that. And that does leave you feeling numb. And who wants to go through life like that?

Be sure to share your own comments and experiences. Helps us all get through the grief, ya know?

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The Plague of Popularity: Do You Take Your Second Life Friends for Granted?

June 1, 2008 at 9:48 pm (Communication, Friendship, Life, Love, Relationships, Second Life) ()

Do you love me or do you not?
You told me once, but I forgot.

I don’t know about you,  but I spent many of my teen years filled with angst and consumed by a persistent desire to be part of the popular crowd. It was unfortunate I was plagued with parents who thought expensive name-brand clothing was extravagant and unnecessary. I say unfortunate because–probably like many of you–I grew up in an era known for its rampant materialism and shallow definitions of success. Ah the ’80s, when your worth as defined by others was derived from how many Izods you could layer underneath an oxford and what brand was displayed on your butt.

I like to believe times have changed a bit. Sure, there still exist needlessly overpriced clothing like Lucky jeans and Juicy Couture [$200 for jeans? You have to be kidding!]. But kids these days seem a little more focused on personal attributes and less likely to write you off simply because of your Wranglers.

What prompts me to muse on these moments and meander down memory lane you wonder? Well my last post discussed how studies have shown that Second Life can affect our personal self esteem in a positive way. And I mentioned that the opposite is also true; sad situations and suffering in SL can bring a cloud of melancholy and malaise to our real lives. Recently I realized how much my friendships within SL have a direct reflection on how sunny my disposition is during my day. And in that sense, it kind of feels like the terrible teens all over again.

I can’t shake the notion that each time we log into Second Life and our name appears on screen for all our friends to see, it feels like that moment of vulnerability in our youth when we stood before that boy or girl waiting to know if they’d dance with us or not. It’s strange to me how few folks welcome me to the grid when I first arrive. Imagine if a friend of ours walked in to a coffee shop or nightclub in real life. Most likely we’d stop in our tracks and reach out to hug them even if we’d just seen them yesterday. Yet in Second Life, there is no such greeting. In fact, I can go months without so much as a hello from that long list of comrades.

Regardless, my friendships are my favorite reason to be in Second Life at all. I admittedly get a thrill every time I hear the ding that comes when I receive an instant message from a friend; I excitedly look with anticipation to see who’s come knocking on my door. But sometimes I wonder if folks take those friendships in world for granted. I notice when friends partner up I hear from them less often, which is quite sad. And, like the relationship patterns we perpetuate in RL, sometimes we wait for our friends to make contact first–a behavior that also feels like a throwback to the turbulent teenage times.

So to wrap up this rambling post in a nuthshell, here is some advice. See that long list of friends in your upper right corner? When was the last time you picked up the proverbial phone and said hello? Go ahead and make the first move. I guarantee your friend will feel fantastic because you did. And that is real friendship–the desire to make someone else happy just because you can.

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Cyber Crush: The Allure of Online Attraction

April 27, 2008 at 3:34 pm (Communication, Friendship, Life, Love, Relationships, Second Life) (, , )

Awhile back I invited guests to submit relevant topics to post on my blog. My great friend Joey Svenska finally took me up on the offer. This is his original post, in its entirety.
~Cindy Kesey

I think it is human nature for people to want to connect with others. We want to be liked and accepted, and either consciously or otherwise, we tend to seek out and bond with others whom we perceive to be similar to ourselves. I also think the majority of people who purposely put themselves into social situations–even virtual ones like Second Life (SL)–are generally receptive to interacting with others; otherwise, they’d have their noses in a book or their eyes glued to the television set instead of venturing out.

But as human beings we are, at our most base level, merely animals, and some of the most primitive of human instincts are those that involve the desire to seek out a potential mate. Thus it’s no surprise that with the right combination of physical attraction, charm, and witty exchanges, the desire to socialize and the innate primal impulse to find a partner can coalesce into a classic recipe for “hooking up,”especially when all of these elements are combined within a virtual framework designed for interaction. Add a couple of glasses of wine to that and it’s very easy to see how so many people in SL find themselves deeply infatuated with someone else online–whether they intended to or not.

As many of we SL veterans can attest, meeting and connecting with a new person in-world can be rather exciting, especially if we find our counterpart to be charming and visually-appealing. And of course, as we all have seen, in SL virtually everyone is drop-dead gorgeous. But why is it that the initial spark we often feel when meeting someone new is so short-lived? And why do we, time and time again, find ourselves craving the intense energy and strong emotional feelings that we get from new encounters?

I think some of the answers may come from an area of psychology known as cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are learned behaviors that influence and sometimes foul up our ability to make rational decisions. One particular cognitive bias known as the “halo effect” was identified by psychologist Edward Thorndike and later expanded upon by Solomon Asch. They discovered that when an observer finds a particular aspect of a situation appealing they tend to assume that the other undiscovered traits of the situation are also positive, even in the absence of supporting evidence. As such, when one person finds another physically attractive or particularly intelligent, it’s quite common for the observer to generalize that the observed person’s other personality aspects are equally appealing.

We also tend to perceive brand new people in the best light because we are initially unaware of their faults and shortcomings. Over time, we slowly and inexorably discover that the new person is just another ordinary human being, fraught with their own merits and faults. But during those blissful initial stages, the new person is often regarded as if they truly do wear a halo.

The halo effect seems to explain, at least in part, how we become so myopically focused on the positive aspects of a partner whilst we are–at least temporarily–blind to their differences and faults. As time goes by and as we learn more about the new person’s proclivities and foibles, our overly optimistic initial perception of the new person tends to wane along with the law of diminishing returns.

So why are we so addicted to the bliss of initial encounters when we know based on our past experiences that the magic almost always fades away? It’s probably because our brain experiences an arousal response when we meet new potential mates. The stimulation provided by a flirtatious conversation with a sexy new person in a romantic setting is a likely trigger for the release of neurochemicals in our brains, giving us a temporary “high”– something that feels really good and makes us crave more.

But alas, as with all mind-altering substances, the partaker builds up a tolerance to the conditions that facilitate the “high,” and as the effects are successively shorter-lived they thus require more and more of the stimulus to get to that exalted happy place. Paradoxically, as we learn more about the new person, their halo starts to dim and we begin to lose, little by little, the charge of that initial excitement. At that point I think the focus of the relationship must necessarily change from one of simple attraction into one based on honest communication, mutual respect, and shared experiences in order for it to grow and thrive.

After some reflection on this, it has become rather apparent to me how easy it is for people to become so totally enthralled, and, yes, even addicted to establishing new relationships. I also see how some of us can suffer a bit from our nascent online infatuations and even become somewhat frustrated as we continue to crave the intense feelings associated with the ephemeral high of those sublime first encounters.

So the next time an initial physical attraction sparks up your primitive mating instinct and gives you those warm fuzzy feelings, be sure to enjoy that moment to its fullest. As it’s quite likely that future encounters with the new person may become successively less thrilling. However, if you go into the situation knowledgeable of the halo effect, and you put forth some time and effort to really get to know that person better and communicate openly and honestly about your feelings, you may find yourself with something that is far more rewarding than a simple cyber-infatuation: that of a true friendship and a lasting relationship.

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Second Life: A Playground for Power Play

February 3, 2008 at 1:21 pm (Friendship, Love, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , , , , )

 

submissive.jpg

“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

This is one of those bizarre sayings that somehow made it into our English vernacular. And like other phrases with questionable heritage, this one sounds weird yet makes sense. But we often seem to lose the meaning behind this particular adage. Ever come across those people with acidic personalities; men, women, and avatars who are quick to judge and even quicker to throw their barbs of negativity in your direction? Logic would tell us–as would our original snippet of wisdom–that these folks who rub others the wrong way would be friendless and forgotten. Not so.

Sadly, we are often drawn to the people who remain aloof and self absorbed. This is probably due our natural human desire to win others over; the more difficult the catch, the more captivating the chase. And I don’t think this tendency is any less apparent in Second Life (SL). I’ve watched from the periphery how glorified, self appointed sim divas attract adoration from an unsuspecting gaggle of devotees. Sure, eventually many of those starry-eyed supporters see through the charade and come to realize the cost of their ardor. But by then the damage is done. And the diva remains unfettered by the loss of the attention and, worse, empowered by her history of conquests.

As I pondered this premise, I began to notice a similarity between this scenario and the power paradigm of the BDSM and Gorean role play prevalent in SL. Thanks to an amazing and patient friend who chaperoned me as his guest, I recently enjoyed an opportunity to visit a Gorean sim to see what this scene was all about. And I was struck by how dutifully the female slaves “played” their roles and how devoted they were to their masters and others who were not of their echelon. Not only that, as a “free woman” I enjoyed an intense power dichotomy: satisfied with my superior status yet simultaneously fearful of upsetting the status quo.

Upon my arrival to the tribe’s home, my awareness was immediately heightened so much so that I physically felt a sense of timidity and trepidation (two terms NOT typically in my vocabulary). Even though I was not a slave, as a woman in a realm where men owned all the power I felt I must tread with tremendous caution and a sincere and meticulous attention to the details of my interactions. This might sound crazy to many of you–especially those who know what a high-spirited double fire sign I am. Yet the experience was exhilarating: I at once felt more alive (yes I see the ironic twist, given this is my avatar’s experience) and developed a deeper purpose to my public prose. This is actually a HUGE lesson for me and one that I’ve needed to learn for years. And it gave me deeper insight into why many people, women in particular, choose this lifestyle both in and out of the virtual world.

Power play–whether organic or deliberate like Gor–is a primary component of our interpersonal relationships. Who has the power is often determined more by our intrinsic nature than by the circumstances that arise. This is one of the things that makes Second Life so appealing: it is a playground for power play. The virtual venue provides a safe setting where we can try on different aspects of ourselves to gain insights into who and how we are. If we’re normally a dominant personality, we can submit for a bit. And if we’re traditionally timid and somewhat shy, we can step outside ourselves and become the life of the party. 

 

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Deep or Wide: What’s Your Friends List Like?

January 10, 2008 at 6:06 pm (Friendship, Life, Love, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , )

friends-hugging.jpg

Because clearly Facebook, MySpace, Second Life (SL), Twitter, and LinkedIn aren’t enough social networking tools for me, I recently joined yet one more site: a Second Life-focused networking site called SLProfiles. What? You’re struck by the irony that a social networking site like Second Life has its own social networking site to socially network with those you already socially network with in world? Me too! But a friend of mine was a member so I thought I’d check it out.

Within the first 10 minutes of being a member I had just as many requests for my friendship (that’s 10 requests in 10 minutes for the numerically challenged). I was immediately basking in my own glow; pleased as punch that I must have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes people want to befriend me upon just one glance of my photo. But after I came down off off my fleeting narcissistic high I became suspicious. And as I inspected these new-found friend wannabes, I noticed they all shared a unique quality: a friends list numbering in the thousands. Holy crap! Have I been inducted into the friendship hall of fame? These folks must be the most popular people in SL and they have requested my friendship! Glorious, I have finally arrived to take my rightful place among the elusive “popular crowd” to which I so desperately longed to belong in junior high school, right? Not.

It appears there are some people in SL–and probably other social networking forums too–who collect friends like stamps. (I stole that quote from Loki, to give credit where credit is due 🙂 ). And it got me thinking. Why would someone want a list of friends a mile long that they didn’t really even know? Has the definition of “friend” changed to mean affiliate or, even worse, market segment? Do these folks expect to become friends with these thousands of people on their list? As an experiment I accepted friendship from several of them to see if we would, in fact, become friends. Dialtone. Not even an auto-generated response thanking me for becoming their friend. Phooey! It’s back to the bottom of the social heap for me.

In looking at my own friends list in SL I noticed that I share some of the tendency I had witnessed; I too have a long friends list–not thousands of people, mind you–filled with many acquaintances and a handful of real friends. But there is a difference; I don’t fatten my friends list to merely feel famous. I tend to collect acquaintances who I hope will blossom into friends one day. And I must admit I feel a bit deflated when some of these friendship buds die on the vine without ever really flourishing.

So my point–and I do have one–is this: is it better to have a small collection of rich, deep, and often intense friend relationships or to have a dance card full of fabulous and somewhat frivolous friends? I tend to prefer depth to breadth. But that’s just me. I am an intensity seeker, looking for relationships that knock me off my feet. But I know plenty of social butterflies who flit from sim to sim happy to find familiar faces at each stop.

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Group Dynamics, Communities, and the Mob Mentality

December 27, 2007 at 6:55 pm (Communication, Friendship, Life, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , , , , , )

group-of-people.jpg

The idea of community isn’t new to the online world. In fact, those who know would say the Internet itself was born out of Usenet groups and discussion forums that began popping up on college campuses in the eighties and early nineties (yes, I am old enough to remember that!). In the last several years communities have further evolved to encompass even greater purpose in this perpetually connected world of ours. From open source software to self help communities where regular folks get answers to their burning questions from other regular folks–arguably a return to the original objective of those communities of yesteryear–Web-based communities continue to be one of the greatest driving forces that push our ever evolving online culture to innovate. And Second Life (SL), one could contend, is at the forefront of that innovation.

So now that I’ve gotten my theoretical academic preamble out of the way, let’s get down to the smarmy tabloid topics I’d really like to talk about. I’ve been wondering about the concept of community in Second Life for awhile now. And recently I was reminded of that curiosity when a fellow SL blogger–ehem, I mean journalist–included me in a list he had compiled (*blush*–you’ll have to see for yourself what the list was about.). The list was long and included a variety of people he must know in SL. But I wondered: in addition to him, do they all know each other? Are they perhaps members of some giant online community or extended mutual admiration society?

Second Life communities–which could also be described as groups, friends, networks, sims, neighbors…you get the picture–seem to function much like our own circles of friends in the real world around us. Often these groups or communities center around similar tastes or experiences like music, art, politics, or sex. Some revolve around proximity, as in groups of neighbors (my friend Daxiaong has written a great post about his own neighborhood community). And I suppose some just grow organically from the seeds of mutual attraction.

This is the part where I admit that I haven’t had great luck cultivating my own community experiences in SL. Which is why I’m always in awe of people to whom groups seem to gravitate. But from what I’ve seen of them, many SL communities tend to magnify some of the good but mostly the bad and the ugly characteristics of group dynamics. They are often ripe with rotten relationship triangles or cheating friends and lovers. Many include the he-said-she-said back-and-forth I thought we all tried to leave behind in middle school. And, sadly, some even include the gang-ups and hang-ups of mob mentality.

Why is this? Why do people, pixelated or fleshy, seem to create levels of never-before-achieved drama when we gang together as groups? Is there something left of our Darwinian evolution from animals where we work to mate and then ascend to the top of the social spectrum of the pack? Is it simply human nature to seek others with like minds in order to wrap ourselves in the comfortable blanket of the familiar?

As usual I don’t know. But I think I know why in SL these group games seem so much more pronounced: because we can hide behind a veil of anonymity that we think shields us from the guilt and blame that should accompany bad behavior.

In the Buddhist sense, however, we’re never anonymous; our karma follows us far beyond this second, real, or any other life we might live. So why not make the most of this opportunity and try to push our evolutionary story even further? Move beyond forming Survivor-style alliances and bring our very best selves to the groups to which we belong. This might mean zipping our lips at times or finding forgiveness when we don’t want to. But what else is evolution for than to move beyond the behaviors that hold us back as a society?

I realize this was a rather negative commentary on such an important feature of the entire social network scene. So for those with positive experiences and stories to share, bring them on. I know they’re out there.

P.S. For those curious onlookers, I’ve written my own “list” in the comments section of the blog.

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What’s “SLove” Got To Do With It?

December 4, 2007 at 11:21 am (Communication, Friendship, Love, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , , , , , )

love-heart.jpg

I’ve written before about my own experiences of falling in love online. And I’ve made it no secret that I think we all could benefit from the added ego boost that comes when we see our own power through a fresh pair of eyes. But lately I’ve noticed the unique tendency in Second Life (SL) to be incredibly loose with the use of the “L” word. This is something that appears to be unique to SL, as I don’t hear its utterance on every street corner in the real world around me. In fact, in my own past I recall laboring over whether the time was right to use it at all lest I communicate something I wasn’t ready to reveal. But in SL we seem to be quite liberal with the word and the idea. This has caused me to doubt its sincerity a bit and wonder how many of those love feelings are real and how many we manufacture in an attempt to reap the rewards of simply having them?

Many people I know in SL are quick to claim they’ve found “the one,” to only days later discard the shell of that relationship onto the pile of other rejects. We seem so hasty to label our experience as love or something similar, that perhaps in our desperation we see things that may not really be there. In essence, are our experiences in SL just added examples that we’re a culture addicted to being in love?

Another practice that has me puzzled is the act of partnering in SL. To limit one’s adventures in a limitless universe by staking out relationship territory to me defeats the purpose of Second Life altogether. Yet I think the partnership propensity is another example of how we attempt to find order in the chaos of the grid. Partnership–and other public displays of our affections such as the gushing tributes in our profiles–is a definitive and specific way to profess that we do care about another person. It also helps communicate, in a world where words are all we really have, the varying degrees of feelings we have for those in our circle of friends who are important to us.

A friend told me recently that Second Life can be a very lonely place. This concept amazed me, since there are so many things to do and see and so many people yet to meet. But there is a sense that, if we do not belong to someone on the grid–whether a partner or a family–we are missing some critical component of the experience. How many times have you looked at someone else’s profile and felt a pang of envy at the declarations of love and appreciation showered upon those who are a part of their circle of friends?

So what’s my point? Am I saying we should put on the brakes and be parsimonious with the love language? I don’t think so. I might be more apt to encourage us to learn from how free we feel to use the words in SL, and how great it feels when someone uses them with us in return. Then perhaps we take that freedom and become more liberal with love and appreciation in our lives everyday.

In addition, it may be useful to find another way to affirm our adoration in SL; one that isn’t weighed down by the baggage of varying and disputed definitions of the word (love means many different things to many different people). Not long ago I saw the word “slove” used to describe the intensity of emotion that is uniquely felt within SL and it seemed a perfect definition for the unique but incredibly intense feelings of love–or at minimum deep like or admiration–that are elicited in this crazy online world.

So I say, don’t be afraid to stand up and profess it loudly and proudly: I SLove you! See, doesn’t that feel good?

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The Power of Cyber Friendships

November 18, 2007 at 12:03 pm (Communication, Friendship, Love, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , , , )

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I often wonder what the real world would be like if we could borrow some of the aspects or capabilities from Second Life (SL) and project them into our everyday experiences. Some of the obvious benefits that come to mind include the ability to change from bathing suit to ball gown with the click of a button or the capacity to jet across the universe to our favorite secluded hide-away on the drop of a dime; early boarding card or first class seat not required. One facet in particular I often fantasize about bringing into RL is the concept of SL friends. From the virtual “little black book” known as our friends list to the honest and open communication that seems unique to SL friendships, I think our world could be well served by making these elements parts of our own realities.

For those not steeped in SL culture, the friends list is a list of people with whom you choose to interact in SL. One has to offer friendship to another before you can be included in this personal list. And once you’re a part of it, you are notified whenever this person logs on or off the grid. This all sounds rather rudimentary as many chat clients and IM technologies include this capability to connect. Yet I’d argue that the SL friends list carries some unique psychological power not found in other applications.

The act of becoming friends is a delicious dance that helps us each feel included and important to those around us. There is something very comforting about definitively asking someone to be your friend. Reminiscent of the grade school years, this simple act sets up a clear and pronounced relationship with another person. There’s little of the doubt that clouds the sometimes awkward interactions that happen when we cultivate new friendships in the real world.

Alternatively, the act of deleting one from our friends list can be equally empowering. Unlike real life where unfulfilling and even toxic friendships can linger in limbo slowly polluting our power like a noxious silent gas leak, SL allows us to delete unsavory characters from our list with one click. We can also periodically peruse our catalog of comrades to see who we’ve connected with lately and clear out any clutter. This action often inspires me to reach across the grid and give a shout out to folks I haven’t said hi to in awhile. Sadly, I find that in real life as I get older this simple experience of reconnecting with long lost friends and family has all but dwindled to a trickle.

What I find most amazing about SL friendships, however, is an unprecedented level of openness and generosity toward others. Despite the fact that SL is an online fantasy world, I find that people often open up more quickly, sharing deep and personal details about themselves that provide a picture of who they really are. This allows for a quicker and more intense connection. Perhaps we feel more comfortable sharing deets with peeps online because of the sense of anonymity that comes with virtual communications; we feel more comfortable sharing private details with near strangers given the perceived wall of privacy the internet seems to provide. Regardless of the reason what I do know is that I find people more apt to “talk and hug it out bitch” in world than in my own backyard.

Addendum: A funny thing happened when I sat down in front of my fireplace today for a little relaxation. I picked up the Sunday paper–which I rarely have time to read–and noticed an article on internet friends, or “e-friends” as the paper labeled them. The article titled “The Best Friend You Never Met” was featured in Parade Magazine (that insert in your local newspaper) and included this interesting quote on e-friends: “As more people turn to the Internet for comfort, information or distraction, some are finding a treasure they never expected: friendships as strong as or stronger than their relationships in ‘real life.'”(Parade, November 8, 2007).

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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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