Thursday, May 10, 2012

Death of an Avatar

I have been bothered by something for the last few months and thought it might be good to get these thoughts in writing because sometimes that helps me make sense of issues,deal with things, and come up with answers.  In the last few months I have read of the passing of some very cool people in the virtual world an started thinking about what would happen when it's my turn.

I am going to die.  I don't know when, but the older I get the sooner that day approaches.  When I die, I am fairly certain that my friends and family in RL (Real Life) will be notified, grieve my passing, and probably have some sort of funeral / wake.  Actually in my family it's more like wake / party because we tend to celebrate the life more than mourning the loss.  But in either case, the people I care about in RL will be able to achieve some level of closure.

I have many friends in the virtual world, but few of them are friends of mine in RL.  Ever since my first days on the old computer bulletin boards, internet, and Second Life, there has been this need for anonymity online.  For most people this has developed because of a need for security and protection, but for most in the virtual world, I suspect it has more do with the fantasy that we live out in the virtual world having little to do with RL and mixing the two would adversely effect the virtual experience.

So anyway, I've been running this scenario around in my head.  Let's say I've died, everyone in RL has been notified and they understand why I stopped showing up for work, church, get togethers, and so on.  They also have a chance to mourn (or in some cases celebrate) my passing and share that experience with my other friends and family with the hope of finding closure.  While this mourning, celebrating, closure stuff is going on in RL what is happening in the virtual world?  My virtual friends will only know that they haven't seen me for a while and have no idea why.  Some people may email me, but unless my family chooses to check that email and respond to them, my virtual friends will only wonder why I'm not answering them.  Eventually, my hosting provider is going to stop hosting my regions because he is not getting paid and my regions will one day cease to exist as well. So Hylee Bekkers and Ptarmigan Park will be gone with little in the way of closure for anyone in the virtual world.

I have had friends in the virtual world that one day stopped logging in and their land eventually went away too.  For most of them, I had no way of contacting them so I am left wondering what happened?  Did something happen to them in RL or did they just move on to another virtual existence with a new avatar and group of friends.  This of course leaves me wondering.... what did I do to upset them?

I probably spend as much time, or in some cases more time with my virtual friends as I do with my RL friends and family, but the only thing my virtual friends know about me is what I choose to share with them.  It's been this unwritten rule that RL and the Virtual Life should not be mixed and I've done a pretty good job on doing that.  I am not Hylee Bekkers in RL.  I don't look like her.  I can't do the things that she does.  And quite honestly, I'm not as popular in RL as Hylee is in the virtual world.  So, there's a great incentive on my part to not mix the two because I like this fantasy that I've built up for myself and don't want to ruin it. But what does that say about how I value my virtual friends?

My friends list is probably a lot like yours.  Quite a few of the people on my friends list are people that I've met in passing and added them to my friends list because I didn't want to be rude and say no to their friend request or they didn't want to say no to mine.  Several of those people I have little contact with now.  I don't want to remove them from my friends list because that will seem rude too.  So. I guess, just because you are on someone's friends list does not necessarily make you their "friend", at least by my definition of what a friend is.  But, there are quite a few people on my list who I feel are friends to some degree or another and value my time that I spend with them.  Those are the people who I feel should know if something happens to me in RL, but that means I have to share my RL Me with them, which means that they will never look at Hylee Bekkers the same way.  And in my mind, that could also jeopardize a relationship that I value.

I have the same avatar and name on multiple grids and have had that name for many years.  I have no plan on creating an alt to hide behind, so if someday I stop showing up on the grid, it's probably because I am no longer able to log in for some reason and you will just have to fill in the blanks.

As I said in the beginning, writing sometimes helps me make sense of issues and I am starting to realize that Hylee Bekkers is not a very good friend.

Sometimes answers suck.