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?

Permalink 9 Comments

Integrity is not a 4-Letter Word

August 28, 2007 at 3:50 am (dishonesty, Integrity, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

Is it me or do some people who step into Second Life abandon their scruples at login? I’m not just talking about the newbs who wander aimlessly, pathetically begging for sex or the uber villains in Waterhead who act out their demonic fantasies through their pixel weapons. I’m talking about real people, like you and me, who seem to lose their marbles when they embody their avatar selves.

I’ve seen first hand the most upstanding individuals in RL–parents, professionals, religious devotees, and other self-proclaimed citizens with deep moral fiber–act in manners unbecoming of even the lowest of low. From lying about their RL age and physique, to blatantly spreading sim rumors, lies, and trash talk, Second Life at times seems full of more drama queens than a sorority during rush.

So what’s behind this phenomenon? Why is it that the anonymity of a virtual world seems to inspire even the meekest folks to don a cloak of perceived power which apparently gives them full license to manipulate others and act as dishonorably as an architect in the Bush administration?

Forgive me for seeming naive, but I prefer to believe these composers of commotion don’t set out to purposely harm others in their midst. On the contrary, I think what possibly happens is a deep and severe instance of miscommunication–complete with spoken and unspoken expectations and assumptions–spirals out of control. Others are then pulled in, truth is stretched, and low-and-behold you soon have a full-fledged soap opera. And, unlike real life, where kludgy communications like these may evolve over a period of several days, the nature of the grid somehow alights the drama-chain like a brush fire in southern California.

I think what’s more important than the emergence of the unfortunate but inevitable drama in SL is the way in which the person deals with it once it’s happened. I once had a boss tell me after I had totally screwed up that it wasn’t what you do in life, but what you do next. Everyone can have a miscommunication, but it takes a person with real integrity to admit fault, apologize and work to fix it.

What I’ve seen in SL is that, just like RL, there are people who are evolved and there are people who remain immature. Folks who are generally self-aware in RL tend to extend that skill into their SL experience and either let the drama roll off their backs or take steps to minimize the damage when it does happen. And, unfortunately, there remain individuals who continue to claim they are victims of some grid-wide conspiracy, never once looking in the mirror to find any culpability.

Permalink 2 Comments