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Posts Tagged ‘escapism’

I’ve found that when people create alts, an interesting thing happens: It seems to intensify their personality. When I’ve met people in their alt form they’re usually acting more intensely – more in your face, or more nice, or more cruel, or more honest, or even more funny. In turn, I also find that my reaction and first impressions of the alt reveals various truths about the original account holder. Let me explain with a few examples because I find this an interesting point and will be basing some further conclusions on it. In each of these examples I had no idea when I met the alt that they were an alt.

Friend #1 created an alt who I thought acted somewhat superior and exclusive, I had to be careful what I said and did around her, but when I acted the way she wanted I got plenty of reward from it and she made me feel special. Once I found out who she really was I realised that this matched what other people had been trying to tell me about her original account and how she made them feel. I realised that there was a lot of truth in it and I just happened to be in her inner-circle, and that sometimes I did have to do certain things to stay there.

Friend #2 created an alt who I thought was very funny, intelligent and intriguing. I instantly liked him and wanted to spend time with him. In fact, he created many alts and every single time I met them I thought “wow, you’re awesome!”. This realisation helped me appreciate my original friendship with them again – it had fallen by the way-side and I re-realised why I enjoyed their company so much.

Friend #3 created an alt who was cheeky and reserved. The alt had an intense precense in the room and people seemed to gravitate to him. He was impossible to ignore, even when he was silent o.O. When I found out who he really was I realised this was a side of his personality I had only dimly been aware of, but that it had always been there. We became closer friends over time, and I came to see that it was indeed a major truth of who he was.

And let’s end with a baddy: Supposed-friend #4 created an alt who came directly up to me and tried to push me out the pub (Three Lions). They attacked me verbally and physically, but were unable to express themselves clearly or convincingly. They got banned by a friend of mine at the time. When I figured out who they were I also realised they were an intensified version of the nasty judgmental and blind aspect of her personality which I had been aware of but hadn’t seen in full unbridled bloom until then.

So here’s the thing, every alt I am aware of encountering has revealed or reminded me of some truth of the original account holder. More often than not it has in turn changed my reaction to the original account holder, with the new realisations in mind. But this also tells us something about alts: A lot of people use alts to escape themselves / “play” someone else who they’d rather be. It appears though that the fundamental personality still comes through and is perhaps ultimately inescapable. No matter how much we try to hide ourselves, our words and our actions – even in a virtual world – reveals things we may not even be aware of ourselves. I realised a while ago that Second Life is not really an escape – if you’re miserable in real life that comes through too. So it’s not surprising that creating alts to escape the original account isn’t particularly successful either.

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In you want to know how I feel at any given time in RL, you’d just look at my face – I am an open book despite years of actively trying to change that fact. I cry when I’m sad, my face lights up like a beetroot when I’m embarrassed, I’ve never been able to stop my mouth curve in a smile when I’m happy or excited, hell I even laugh my head off at jokes and stories I find funny before I can finish telling them. The thought or emotion goes through my body or mind, and you better believe you’ll find it on my face.

When I first joined SL I thought how neat it would be to be able to hide my emotions when I chose to. I just wouldn’t talk right, or choose my words carefully, and hey presto my secret emotions stayed hidden… right? Well, no, actually, completely wrong.

In my experience not only can other people pick up on my emotions through my chatter and oddly enough my silences, I can similarly pick up on theirs. Many times I’ve had people say they were amazed I could pick up on their feelings in SL the way I can, I’ve even had a couple of people claim I’m a natural witch because of it. (Which is something I’ve been called a lot in RL too so maybe I’ll return to that topic and how it intersects with SL later.) It strikes me though as a simple enough thing – perhaps hard to explain but quite universal: We use words all our lives to communicate more than just dictionary meanings, and just because you log into SL doesn’t mean that aspect gets turned off.

Just like in RL, in SL I try to teach myself not to show emotion when I don’t want anyone knowing my feelings, but at the end of the day I’m just as sucky at this in SL. One very close friend used to get annoyed at me because he said he saw my “true” emotions in IM but in open I seemed carefree and bubbly, he said this made me fake. I realise now that he was wrong, I wasn’t the great pretender he thought I was. I really was happy and carefree in open chat, it was talking to him in IMs that made me sad and as soon as I went back to open I was happy to get a break from it. He’s not part of my SL life anymore and that’s for the best.

All this is just one more way in which SL seems to inevitably reflect our true selves. It feels like escapism, but at the end of the day, we’re still who we are, and we need to either learn to love ourselves or change ourselves into something we can love. Using SL to escape ourselves is like using a bandaid on a gunshot wound; at the end of day you’re still going to be crying if you’re miserable, it’s just your tears will be falling on a keyboard instead.

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