Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

While reading the comments on a friend’s blog post about Freebies, I came across the standard comment (and from a Second Life resident no less), which goes along the lines of “it’s all just play clothes on virtual dolls, why do you all give a crap?”. I was going to reply to it but realised what I had to say had wider application and goes to the heart of trying to understand why people bother with a virtual world at all. So it’s getting its very own blog post over here instead 🙂 .

The first thing to realise is that that style of argument can apply to every single element of Second Life, “it’s just pixel pieces, why do you care that this sim is being destroyed..” “it’s just fake water, why does a view of it matter”, “it’s just toy bodies, why do you care who they have virtual sex with”, etc. So as Second Life residents we should always be suspect of this argument from anyone else who is a resident too – surely we know better than that by now. We might find it easier to defend why we value whichever part of Second Life we take part in, but struggle to appreciate someone else’s interest in something like Second Life fashion.

It doesn’t take a lot of reflection to put together the arguments though – the way we dress our avatars expresses our own style; some people write poems, some sing songs, some do pictures, others dress up. They are just all ways to say “this is me, this is what I am, this is how I feel”. Then there’s all the arguments about the fact that people make real money from virtual clothes, and spend real money on virtual clothes, there is livelihood at stake here and that is always going to be important to the people involved in it. Throw in the points about the art-form itself of creating virtual clothes – the precision and expertise involved – and all up it’s really not that hard to understand why some people care so damn much about it.

However, you don’t have to go through those sorts of in-depth or reasoned arguments if you don’t want to – because this whole discussion just emulates the exact same arguments we throw at each other in real life about real life activities. For example, I have no idea why so many of the men I know spend money and time following and caring about sports. I’ve heard their arguments and none have convinced me I should suddenly take an interest in it myself. You can push the examples to the edge of reason as well and try to appreciate the money and time people like MTG players put into a small pieces of cardboard that the rest of us would just throw out as rubbish, or stamps, or whatever – the examples are unlimited. All that matters though is that they do value those things – whether they can make you value them too or not is going to be irrelevant to their own desire and possible obsession over them.

To the same extent it becomes pointless to constantly ridicule people about the things they value – in any world. We all take joy from different things, it’s part of the beauty of the diversity of humanity, why would anyone want to destroy that, and make us all like the same things? What an incredibly boring world that would be.

There is a line to be drawn of course: If someone is spending time or money on something to an extent that they are endangering their own or their family’s lives, then we say enough is enough. But we call that an obsession, or an addiction, and we generally understand that just about any imaginable (legal) activity becomes dangerous at those extremes. However most people don’t live at the extremes of addiction and obsession, and the chances of you being able to figure out if they do or not from some brief blog comments they make, seems very low. So even with this line of concern there is little ground to dismiss what someone else values as “stupid” or “unreasonable”.

What is considered “valuable” changes from individual to individual. And even when two individuals value something equally, the reasons for them ascribing it that value are likely to vastly differ – whether those reasons are monetary gain from on-selling the item later, emotional ties, rarity, beauty, or historical connections. Some people will mount arguments for “objective value” – but that’s usually at the fringes of philosophical debate, where we try to make the argument that everyone should value life, or happiness or other things which are rarely on the market anyway. The ways in which we achieve happiness or our versions of the good life are reflected in the rest of the items and activities we try to surround ourselves with; trying to tell someone they are “wrong” for valuing stamps or sports or pixels when in fact they help that person achieve one of these higher goals (of lets say, happiness), is to miss the point entirely.

Within certain communites we can have meaningful discussions about value. For example in the Second Life fashion community there can be meaningful discussions about the value of a well-made dress with fantastic unique textures. But if you don’t value Second Life fashion at all, trying to jump into that discussion and tell them they’re all morons for thinking it matters who designed a dress or the details of the texture, is a waste of your time and a waste of theirs; go get involved with discussions about things you do actually care about, instead of focusing so much effort on bringing down what makes other people happy.

There are a lot of thoughts I’m trying to get out here, that require more space than a single post rightly allows. But the point is an important one: Why we value Second Life at all – why we value what we do there, why one person values clothes and the other values snail races – is as much a discussion as to why one person values collectible playing cards and another spends their time drooling over Ferraris. Just accept that what makes you happy might not make your neighbour happy, but that as long as you’re not addicted or obsessed to the point of destroying lives, just live and let live. You’re not going to convince me to stop valuing everything Joss Whedon creates, and I’m not going to convince you that following sport is pointless (even though it is :p ).

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Would you rather be in Second Life right now... or are you already..?

Would you rather be in Second Life right now... or are you already..?

A recent commenter on my blog claimed you can’t be addicted to Second Life. I countered with a “oh yes you can be”.

It doesn’t take much of a Google search to find people making the claim that it’s possible (examples of relevant links include this and this and this).

Inspired by my good friend Rrish over at Metaversally Speaking who did a quiz about Second Life body shapes, I’ve decided to provide a link to an Internet Addiction Quiz that I found quite interesting and relevant. When I took the quiz purely in regards to “Internet addiction” (which is it’s intention and wording), I received a score of:

25: Internet addiction possible: Based upon your responses to this quiz, it appears that you are likely experiencing fairly frequent issues related to your online use. This often occurs when individuals start exploring or using Internet resources (or game playing) to an extreme, without considering balancing them with their real-life needs. Think of it like this… You generally don’t spend 5 or 6 hours in front of the television, every night, nearly every day. Most people wouldn’t think that’s normal. So if you find yourself spending that amount of time online day after day and it’s affecting your ability to interact in your real life, you should seek change or additional help.

I took the quiz again specifically inserting for myself the words “Second Life” instead of “Internet”, “email” and “online”and got this (again, with “Second Life” replacing the words “online” and “Internet”):

11: No Second Life Addiction: Your use of Second Life falls within the range of the average user. From the way you answered the questions, it is unlikely that you have any problem with Second Life use at this time. You have a balanced relationship with your Second Life use.

Sounds good right? It does now. This is the honest result I would have gotten answering those questions about Second Life a few months ago:

33: Second Life Addiction Likely: Based upon your responses to this quiz, it appears that the amount of time you’re spending in Second Life may be causing you significant concerns within your real-world life. People who spend a lot of time in Second Life often find that they have difficulty balancing their Second life with their real-world life (especially if you are new to Second Life). You should look at how you’re using Second Life right now and see if there are ways that you can reduce or otherwise change your use of Second Life to reduce the issues it may be causing in your life. Think of it like this… You generally don’t spend 6 or 8 hours in front of the television, every night, nearly every day. Most people wouldn’t think that’s normal. So if you find yourself spending that amount of time in Second Life day after day and it’s affecting your ability to interact in your real life, you should seek change or additional help.

So things have clearly changed for the better, and I stand by what I’ve said before in my blog: I used to be addicted to Second Life but no longer am.

What about you? Are you addicted to Second Life? Run through the quiz the way I did – inserting “Second Life” for those other Internet terms, and if you’re brave, let me know what your score was. Or just pop it into my attached poll, or even better – do both 🙂

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There’s nothing wrong with Second Life (they tell me), it’s just another place to play, or a place to make money, and what’s wrong about that? On the surface of it, nothing. The problem exists because people who were playing or making money in almost any other venture would far quicker realise that it was harming them (if and when it was doing so), and get out.

Second Life is not the right environment for everyone to play and work, in fact for a rather large proportion of people it seems to be a very negative place that they stay in due to what appears to be an addiction rather than because they carefully weighed the pros and cons and realised it was a good thing after all. In a recent conversation with an old Second Life friend, a couple of things occurred to me on this topic, that I feel a need to share.

The first is in regards to seeing Second Life as just another type of play. Play is important for humans, we use it to relax and unwind, we find ways to play that make us laugh and maybe challenge us, but the point of play is that it is enjoyable. If you chose to partake in a form of play which ended up with you effectively cheating on your partner, or sitting in tears every time you did it, or making you feel suicidal, then any sane person would tell you to stop the activity and find some other way to play. I have known people in Second Life who do those things and end up in those positions and even hate themselves for it, and yet they log in again and again. Just stop logging in damnit – find some way to play that doesn’t harm you – if you can’t play Second Life without ending up worse than where you started, then get another hobby. If a friend loved playing hopscotch but every time they played it they scrapped their knees and ended up screaming at their fellow players, wouldn’t you tell them to stop playing the game?

It’s a natural response to say “they should just play it differently then!”. But why, when there are thousands of different forms of play, would you persist doggedly at one that has rather consistently turned up negative results? Far healthier to find a way to play that lifts you and makes you smile, no?

The second and I think more intriguing point I want to discuss here is using Second Life as a work environment. I have met plenty of people who say Second Life is special and worthy because they make some money there, it is their work environment. What a crappy work environment! You’re working in a world where there are almost never proper contracts in place outlining your rights or obligations. There are very rarely any sort of consequences for a breach of work relationships, except maybe social sanctions that will only reach the ears of the tiny percentage of players who read blogs. What’s even worse if you don’t even know who owns what you create – is it owned by you or Linden Labs, how can you figure out what constitutes stealing it, or even the real identity of the thief?

If these were the work conditions in any other area, would you persist? If I asked you to come work for me, but I’m going to pay you in a fictional currency, with no contract signed off, without using my real name, and not making it clear whether you own what you make (or in fact if you’re constantly breaching someone else’s rights by doing what you do such as taking pictures in world is often claimed to do), would you happily accept? I hope not!

I know the likely reply would be that it’s a bit of extra money you can make from home. But you know you can make money in other ways online that aren’t so incredibly dodgy and un-protected, and don’t end up in daily drama of people defaming each other at the drop of a hat.

For some people it’s an acceptable work environment and they avoid almost daily dramas. But that is a small percentage at best. Same for the people who find it an enjoyable place to play – it suits some people but it’s a much smaller group than the large number of people who seem to find Second Life a miserable addiction and complain every week about not having the willpower to leave. I might write a post on will-power at some stage, I personally revel in my ability to walk away from and quit or take up whatever my reason dictates I should do, I get a huge and powerful rush and sense of accomplishment when I can master those things that harm me. Second Life was one of the hardest addictions for me to break, but I got there in the end. Just remember there are other ways to work and play – if it’s making you happy and wealthy then stay, if it’s causing you to cut yourself and have heart-attacks from stress, then get out and find some other way to fulfill your life.

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Lucky ChairingI’m writing this while flicking back and forth from a store which has four lucky chairs, each set to re-choose a letter every 20 or 30 minutes. And I am neck-deep in the complexities of Lucky Chair thoughts. I’m not kidding, this stuff is full of politics, politeness and preferences.

It started properly yesterday when I visited a store to buy some hair, and ended up watching the three lucky chairs there which were on five minute rotations. I eventually won everything those chairs had in them – three sets of hair and a “model set” which included skin, shape, eyes and hair. We’re not talking junk either. Before that store I had been hair shopping at another place which also incidentally had a lucky chair, where I won these cool sock thingies which are hard to explain but also good quality. The place I’m currently at I’ve already won two sets of what look like quite high quality silks, with scripts built in o.O

A perfect example of Lucky Chair politics just cropped up as I flicked back in-world: Someone who dared to have a name beginning with L walked into range of the chair I’m counting down besides. I’ve been camped out here for ages and my first thought is “oh no you don’t little missy, just keep walking, any L that comes up is MINE.” She’s just standing there beside me staring at the same two lucky grab things that I am and I’m thinking, what the hell is going through her mind? Are we going to have a who-clicks-fastest-race if L comes up or will she do the polite thing and let me take it since I was here first? Or is the polite thing for me to step aside and let her take any L prize because I’ve already won some items here today? And she’s got bling. I mean seriously, that’s how catty I’m getting here “back off bling bish, that chair is mine”. (No I didn’t say that out loud, but I thought it damnit). Sheesh. The shame of it. Standing in one place for 20 minutes watching a chair can make you a bit loopy though.

There’s also an odd feeling of camaraderie though if there’s lots of you in the room all with different letters starting your name, this sort of “we’re all in this together” buzz as you watch out for each other and speed along the letters ticking over while everyone gets happy things.

So here’s the thing – I’m not an official addict. The official addicts belong to Lucky Chair groups and listen to group chatter about what’s available where. I do IM my friends if there’s an item available that I think they might like, and I do get IMs from other people doing the same. If you can rez fast enough once you arrive, you can usually pick up something worth the bother. And yes, I too thought about joining the Lucky Chair group… but which one? There are heaps of these things – some stores (like this one) have a group solely set up for the lucky chair addicts (to keep them out of chatting on the main group it appears). Other groups just exist for Lucky Chair addicts enmass.

It appears that Lucky Chairs have a few useful functions for the store owners: They increase traffic, particularly because most (maybe all?) prizes are no transfer so I’d be silly to stand there and hog all the letter L prizes if they were the same thing over and over, and I’d be smart to bring in friends to take prizes to help the letters tick over to an L faster. Yes, you don’t need to ask, I did contemplate bringing in my alts to tick the letters over at one stage, but the chairs tick over and people come and go faster than I’d be able to log them in, plus no transfer, so you see, I have to be nice to people don’t I. Just not people whose names start with L. Oh and while you’re standing around waiting on your letter you get bored and check out the rest of the store and inevitably contemplate just buying what you want. Me, I get a small case of the guilts and tend to buy something from the store to show my appreciation for the free goodies regardless.

Brief interruption; I just caught myself saying this to a friend over IM in world: “My name does not begin with any of these letters. I KEEL THE CHAIRS”. They no longer believe I am not an addict. I believe my frenzy can be read in multiple ways… I just can’t think of any alternatives right now is all. Ooooh, and there’s this prize pyramid thing here with five tiers also based on letters, bought to me by the makers of Lucky Chairs…

*hangs head in utter despair*

Ah well, a little bit of addiction and running round after letters, getting excited each time a L pops up, is really a small price to pay for a lot of high quality goodies. At least that’s what I tell myself. And it’s not as bad as “camping” right..? Right? Stop looking at me that way >.<


Edit: At the time of publishing this I have now won four different sets of silks from this place and I’ve now joined the Lucky Chair Stalker Group. My initiation, is complete.

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