New post on Serendipidy Haven’s Blog
New post on Serendipidy Haven’s Blog
One of those things I’ve always vowed never to do is meet anyone from SL in the flesh – for me one of the most attractive features of living in a virtual world is the way in which you can choose for it to be entirely removed and distinct from reality. I can be whoever I wish, and do whatever I want, in whatever context I desire whilst inworld; that does not in itself convey any need or wish for my virtual existence to be in any way connected with the real me. If I choose to share something of my virtual life with someone in the real world, (a situation that has not yet occurred), I will do so, but it will be on my terms and only to the extent to which I feel entirely comfortable. Similarly, if I choose to disclose elements of my real life to those I know from the virtual community, it will be on the same terms, and there are a number of things that will always remain strictly private, confidential and none of your business.
Not everyone feels the same way, but each to their own, and whatever works for you is fine.
When it comes to my virtual friends and acquaintances, I’m afraid this produces an unequal equation: Many of those I know inworld have no problem with sharing information and details about their real lives that I, for one, will never share about myself, except with a very favoured few. There are those who, if I was to run into them in the street, I would instantly recognise: I know roughly where they live and I know what they look like and sound like in the real world. They, on the other hand, could walk past me and never know they’d encountered Serendipidy Haven, unless they are one of the handful with whom I have shared my photo and voice – and even then, it’s such a rare occurrence, I might still pass by unnoticed.
I’m pretty certain however that those of you who do associate with me inworld, or even through the pages of this blog, have some sort of mental picture of the real me, and in some cases that may well be a fairly accurate one. However, I discovered only recently that imagination and reality can be worlds apart when it comes to the facts, with amusing results.
I shall paraphrase the recent exchange that took place between an inworld friend and myself over the course of a few days:
Friend: Who’s that girl pictured on your blog then?
Me: Huh? What girl… What picture?
Friend: That girl. It’s you, isn’t it?
Me: I don’t think so!
Friend: I think it is!
Me: I don’t even know what picture you mean, but I know it’s not me!
Friend: I’m sure it is. I worked it out.
Me: OK – I’m intrigued now – send me a screenshot of the picture.
Friend has offered you inventory
Me: Erm, that’s definitely not me.
Friend: Bet it is.
Me: Nope… That’s Scarlett Johansson!
They were very disappointed; I was very flattered!
No doubt, the friend in question will wish to beat me to a pulp when they read this – but I certainly wouldn’t wish to humiliate them over such a sweet mistake, so they shall remain completely anonymous and if anyone asks me who it was, my lips will remain tightly sealed.
It’s weird how our minds, when presented with only the bare minimum of information, will still nevertheless, try to fabricate a coherent picture from what is available, and will latch on to any strand of detail that comes their way, no matter how tenuous it may be. Throw in some intelligent guesswork, a bit of luck and you may – Nutrimatic fashion – end up with something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike me!
This is probably a good thing, since:
a) You will be spared the true horror of experiencing the true reality of me;
b) I will be spared the true horror of ever being recognised in RL by you;
c) I am more than happy to be mistaken for Scarlett Johansson.
There is a further aspect to this whole anonymity thing that also merits exploration – some people in SL really do appreciate the anonymity the virtual world provides, for the simple reason that they actually do wish to remain anonymous and experience things as a normal, everyday person. What if – and you have absolutely no way of knowing the real facts here – what if, in real life, I really am Scarlett Johansson? Surprise!
The problem with being famous is that it’s very difficult to escape to normality – the moment anyone suspects you might be a celebrity, they’re all over you asking for your autograph, taking photos, bragging to their friends about meeting you and generally meaning you never have the opportunity to have fun and do all the things that normal people get to do. It’s bad enough not being able to pop down the shops for a loaf of bread without the paparazzi hounding you, or being unable to leave the house without a disguise, but if you can’t even escape to a virtual world and experience some semblance of normality, then fame can be a real bind. So we may never know when the rich and famous are amongst us in SL – our best friend may be a superstar, and we’d never know it!
Fame, (fame) what you like is in the limo
Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, (fame) what you need you have to borrow Fame
Fame, (fame) it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to crime (fame)
David Bowie – Fame
by Serendipidy Haven
Avatar: from the Sanskrit avatāra ‘descent’, from ava ‘down’ + tar- ‘to cross’. A manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher. An incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea.
Whilst most of us would hesitate to describe our virtual representation as a deity manifest, few would have any problem with considering our pixel form as an incarnation, embodiment or manifestation of ourselves, or of the more esoteric, nebulous constructs that define who we are. Indeed, a great many of us consider our avatars to be more representative of who and what we are than we would ever dare show, if indeed we could, in our real lives.
There’s little doubt that SL has the capability to release aspects of our character and make up that are heavily suppressed or hidden in our day to day lives,
It’s been said the avatar is a mask; but for me, it isn’t. A mask hides what lies behind – SL reveals it. A mask is expressionless, but SL give us the freedom to express ourselves; there are various explanations for this – many of which I’ve explored before in the pages of this blog. Whether it’s the anonymity that allows us to be our true selves, the freedom we’re given in virtual form, the wide variety of concepts, ideas and cultures, contained within such a small world, or the distance that SL allows us to put between the actions of our virtual selves and reality that gives us the scope to be other than what we appear to be, is largely immaterial. What matters to the majority of us is the simple fact that we can, and do, perceive our virtual selves to be more able, more honest and more open than perhaps we can ever be in the real world.
I’ve heard it frequently stated that the way we present ourselves inworld is, in essence, a mask – that what those around us see is how we choose to be seen. A mask, of course can be perceived in more ways than those which we may think we are presenting to others. It can create anonymity; a mask can hide the truth; we can disguise or change how others see us; a mask can be employed both for good and for less savoury purposes. We can employ masks to mystify, intensify, challenge, invoke fear, provoke laughter and hide our feelings entirely. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can certainly employ our avatars in any one of these diverse fashions, however I feel that to do so misses an extremely important and significant point: Certainly, our avatar can be employed as a mask, however our avatar can equally, and perhaps in even greater measure, be the mechanism by which we unmask ourselves.
I’ve already mentioned in this post how SL permits us to ‘be ourselves’, and over the years I’ve spoken to many, many people who would aver this is true for them, whether in terms of their inworld pursuits, confidence-building or allowing them to be accepted as they are, without the prejudices, brick walls and difficulties that they face daily in real life. Surely this is quite the opposite to putting on a mask, hiding who we are and retreating behind the safety that such a construct provides?
I firmly believe that a great number of SL adherents spend a huge amount of time in the real world wearing a mask of some description. It may not be a tangible, physical mask; even so it can be as effective as any facial covering – obfuscating, obscuring and protecting the truth that hides away behind it. Yet, when these very same people log in to SL, their first action is to take off that mask, hang it on its inworld virtual peg and face the Grid, unmasked and in complete honesty, proclaiming both to themselves and to all those they come across: “This is me.. The real me!”
It’s powerful stuff. We’re in control. We do what we choose. We are who we are.