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20 November 2006

A post on the Second Citizen forums by Wildefire Walcott:

Why Second Life Is Important
Seven years younger and childless, my husband and I moved thousands of miles from home to start a new life. While we love our new home, and consider it a better place for our young family than where we lived before, all of our closest friends and all of our relatives are now accessible only by phone and email. Ours is a comfortable, pleasant, but often lonely existence. Enter Second Life.

In this past year as a Second Life resident, I have made many friends both in-world and on the forums, and have had more regular and meaningful contact with them than with most of my own family members. Although time differences still prove to be a damnable inconvenience, I've met men and women from all parts of the world, and have grown close to many of them.

I have a make-believe home in a make-believe world, but in a year's time I've felt real joy and love, real jealousy and heartbreak. After I say goodnight to my avatar friends I return to them in my sleep where they live and breathe like I do. When I awake from these dreams I'm sometimes disappointed to find it was all in my head, but I'm pleased to have had the thoughts at all. My memories are a part of me, a part of my life. Contrary to what the cynics will tell you, Second Life isn't a substitute for real life- it's a supplement.

My best friend in the world is a woman I've known since high school, where our relationship grew out of a shared interest for Laurie Anderson and The Smiths. Due to the geographic distance now between us, we had to continually re-affirm our best-friend status during the one or two times a year we actually get to see each other face-to-face. We're awful about email and phone calls, and really relied on our rare in-person meetings to keep our friendship alive. When she flew out to visit me last June, our relationship blossomed in a new, exciting, and even frightening manner... we had discussed this change in the weeks before her visit, and once we were in the same room together it all just fell into place. The amazing thing about this evolution is that it would never have happened if I hadn't discovered Second Life months before. It's only through the personal revelations that my Second Life triggered in my First Life that I became aware of some of my strengths and gifts- and was able to share them with my dearest companion.

On the last day of her visit I showed her Second Life and helped her set up an account. Since then, despite the space between us, we've been able to meet on the weekends and see the sights, go shopping, and just be together. During one of our virtual meetings, when I was about to go for the day I emoted that that I pushed her hair behind her ear so I could touch her face. She was quiet for a while, and when I asked what was wrong, she confessed she was crying in real life because she was overwhelmed my how real it all felt. I was only able to give her a virtual hug at the time, but I knew exactly what she meant.

Second Life is important in other ways to different people. Folks with disabilities (particularly deafness) can interact with other avatars in a way they never could in the real world. I know several people who are so ill or impaired that they're physically unable to move freely outside their homes. Their friends and lovers reside online; are their primary (if not only) source of human contact. Most people in this state are very poor (almost all of my housebound friends are unverified accounts) and it is a true blessing that they can participate in this world for free. I growl a bit every time I try to port an unverified friend into a sim that blocks them, and each time a newbie tells me that some established player was rude to them because of their payment status.

One woman I am very close to, also running an unverified account due to her circumstances, recently confessed to me that she is dying. She cannot afford treatment for her cancer and she spends her days alone in a dark apartment, often feeling so bad she can barely roll out of bed. When I asked what I could do for her, she simply asked me to just be myself- just be there for her when she's strong enough to sign on. I have committed to do just that, and I'm so glad I've got the opportunity to bring some happiness and fulfillment to my friend in these last sad days of her existence.

A fundamental and perfect thing about Second Life is that it enables you to explore different lifestyles, cultures, and interests with some measure of safety and privacy. You deal your own cards and control your own fate. That many men move about Second Life with female avatars is no secret, but this phenomenon goes beyond mere curiosity or an outright desire to deceive. A large number of these players are transvestites or transgendered in real life, and Second Life provides a protected environment for them to live the life they always thought they should have had to begin with. Several men have confided to me that they lamented having been born male, and I actually think it's a beautiful thing that they should be able to taste that life which they'd otherwise been denied.

When I complain about Linden Lab or Second Life, I'm not worried about the economy or intellectual property. I don't consider those things unimportant, but I know that many real life businesses and industries have survived more dire circumstances than any Second Life merchant has had to contend with. We have resourceful, creative people in our community, and they will find ways to remain successful. No, when I worry about Second Life, I'm concerned about the things that would prevent me, my friends, and all the other lonely dreamers out there from moving in this beautiful, flawed, important world.

posted by - 12:45 PM


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