Second Life: Relationships In Hyper Speed
Anyone familiar with the game Second Life will agree that it is equally part intriguing and equally part mind numbing. On on hand, Second Life exists as an endless journey of the imagination where whatever the mind can fathom, can be created with enough hard work and patience. Yet, on the converse side, and for a large majority of Second Life inhabitants, it is a glorified internet dating chat room. It is this relationship aspect of Second Life that is it’s greatest and worst characteristic.
Consider the following facts:
- The average Second Life intimate relationship lasts, on average, two months.
- The average time between Second Life relationships is two to three weeks.
- 90% of rebound relationships outside of Second Life fail.
If you have never once delved into the virtual world of Second Life, you should still find this striking, and draw one glaring conclusion from these three facts – relationship stability in Second Life is a near impossibility. It also raises numerous questions.
One curious aspect of relationship within SL are that love seems to be abound. Chances are if you inspect any random players profile it will contain loving words of affection for another person. But if you were to check back in a few months that same person’s profile, there is a high probability that those feelings of love for that particular person will be missing. Love in Second Life has this fleeting and finite characteristic just as it does in real life, except amplified ten fold.
Lust and infatuation crop up regularly in real life in personal relationships. Those first six months to a year are exciting and new. Eventually, what was perceived as love evaporates. It is no different in SL, but what would explain a relationship professed in love in Second Life lasts a considerably shorter period of time then in real life?
Second Life does suffer from the same thawing effect, but to understand why it happens at such an increased speed requires a bit more examination. A large portion of understanding can be found in the nature of Second Life. As stated previously, SL can offer a wide range of possibilities for activities, but that presupposes some effort and work on the part of the player to either mold their own experience through self-creation or studious exploration.
There is a massive amount of junk in Second Life. Wading through all the garbage to find a single gratifying experience can be just as tedious as actually creating your own. It should come as no surprise to know that a vast majority of SL players do not want to want to have to trade effort for pleasure. Instead, most wander about.
Second Life, minus it’s creations, then becomes merely a collection of people – a massive chat room with no particular linear construction. And, hence, most SL players spend their time meeting and talking to other players.
Now consider that a considerable portion of SL players possess real life’s that are dissatified. Second Life, for them, is a search for friendship, companionship, and love. Real life, unable to fulfill their emotional needs, becomes a secondary endeavor for them, and their Second Life takes priority. They spend an inordinate amount of time within the game, and an excessive amount of time interacting with other people.
In real life, a person has a job and responsibilities to attend to. Their time and energy is naturally limited. A real life relationship is constrained by these limitations. No such limitations exist for the serious Second Life player. It is here where we can find why Second Life relationships have a shelf-life so amazingly shorter then in real life.
During that initial period in a relationship, getting to know the other person occurs between the daily tasks of life. Your time together is restricted to maybe an hour or two during the week with the bulk of time spent together limited to the weekends baring any plans with family and friends. In Second Life, couples will spend some 4-8 hours a day together just talking. They might visit a club and dance, or check out a clothing store, but all that is a distraction from getting to know one each other.
SL relationships travel the fast track. They are relationships in hyperspeed as compared to real life. Left with nothing but talking, two people get close exceedingly quickly and the word “love” emerges in no time at all. This can be considered a benefit, but it also serves as a death sentence to the relationship because after a couple months of nothing but talking, that embryonic lust period wears off equally quickly, and the relationship comes to a screeching end.
I know personally SL players who are geniunely destroyed by heartache the end of these relationships bring. The feelings are real. The pain is no less hurtful then in real life. If they happen to forge ahead in SL, they are sent back into a sea of people, where they will undoubtedly find someone else.
As anyone who has experienced the pain the end of relationship causes knows that a quick band-aid is to meet someone new. To forget is to not remember and nothing works better then a new relationship. This is the rebound relationship. Yet, for as immediate as the quelling of heartbreak the rebound relationship affords, it is destined to fail. It’s not difficult to understand why. A rebound is simply a attempt to satisfy a selfish need without particular regard to the actual relationship.
This is the endless cycle Second Life relationships can rarely break from. There are the exceptions to the rule, but those are extreme outliers. For most SL players, their existence is a repeated burst of misconstrued love followed by wallowing tears brought on by a broken heart.
These very same people, who engage in self-deprecating relationships in SL, will be the first to tell you that they want don’t want drama. What they fail to understand is that, when a relationship is placed into hyper speed, it’s problems crop up with greater frequency. This is perceived as drama. It appears constant and incessant.
As a Second Life player, I can only shake my head at the people I see who are in a neverending state of relationship flux – in love for a few months, heartbroken for a couple weeks, and back in love with someone else. They seem to miss the important point that everything in Second Life occurs at a ten fold speed over real life.
Relationships in SL can be a beautiful and wondrous thing, but far too often they reach an unwary demise. This is not to say that every relationship found in this virtual world is worth holding on to. I am saying that, if you want a relationship in Second Life to last and work, it will require patience and diligence to understand that problems, as any relationship encounters, proceed at an elevated rate. Rather then perceiving these problems to be a sign that the relationship is untenable, it is better to expect and devote yourself with the strength to tackle them more frequently.
That is what the conundrum of spending such large amounts of time with another person – everything is accelerated.