Second Life: A Playground for Power Play

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

 

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“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) (, , , , , )

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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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