Initially, Second Life reminded me of another MMORPG/Socializing/Dating platform I saw advertised across numerous sites called IMVU. I briefly made an account on it to see what all the hype was about, but was quickly turned off by its exaggerated and overlysexualized nature and immature community. Even though I didn’t know SL was a platform millions of people actually used til I read “Same Shit, Different World” I fortunately hold higher expectations for this class because I know I won’t be interacting with fifty year olds and their midlife crises or prepubescent teens working on their courting game.*

^ Sign up on IMVU to live through your avatar and be cuddled by the man of your dreams! I don’t know if SL offers the same array of actions/gestures as IMVU, but I don’t particularly care to find out. However, if this suits your needs, then register away! I won’t judge. Graphic hosted on http://www.tumblr.com.

Below, someone remarked incredulously on the hyperpersonal effect that occurs when people invest time and emotional, and sometimes financial, commitment into a virtual reality. While the author’s understanding of the “hyperpersonal effect” wasn’t entirely accurate (because it isn’t so much about becoming a different person than it is to be able to share and bond in a new way because of greater vulnerability among users), I think his/her surprise was honest. Individuals who thrive in their workplaces and maintain active social lives (regardless of one’s introversion/extraversion) don’t need to peruse the internet for like-minded kin and experience fellowship in this way. Those who are lonely and struggle with finding kindred spirits in this physical reality can thrive equally so thanks to the synchronous and customizable features offered by an environment like Second Life.

The ability for citizens of the 21st century to discern their niche in a virtual reality must be accepted and normalized into our society without stigmas attached to it. An industry I’d like to pursue is the melding of psychology and technology and the manners in which the latter can facilitate the former. If a social presence can be induced to such a personable degree in the comfort of one’s own room, then what does that mean for mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, or OCD, all of which severely impair one’s ability to socialize? What can people do to best reach people who would rather communicate with text on a screen than with their mouths moving? How can people who thrive independently of online communities learn to understand those who are dependent on them? All of these are questions I’d like to understand by taking this class.

Additionally, if anyone is interested in understanding how wonderful a virtual reality can be, I highly recommend a show called Sword Art Online! All the episodes may be found on http://www.crunchyroll.com. Without spoiling too much, the premise of this story employs a piece of futuristic technology called Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (VRMMORPOG). Players put on helmets and “full dive” into a reality that leaves their physical bodies unconscious as they traverse a world and a game called Sword Art Online. But suddenly, the option to log-out is disabled and so are everyone’s avatars! The only way to return to the real world is after an individual clears the game and all 100 hundred levels. SAO’s production and music are all top-notch but I attribute much of this show to my understanding of how fully engaging and real online communities can be for some.

^ SAO wallpaper. The art is fantastic!

^ After the avatars are disabled and every player can see each other’s true faces (thanks to the helmets full-body scanning technology to provide a physically realistic experience in this virtual world) these two characters exclaim “Wait, you’re not a girl!” and the other one retorts “And you’re not 17!”

*I may sound rather harsh on individuals who engage in this lifestyle, but I believe there’s a fine line between proudly, honestly, and respectfully going about one’s business with integrity, and heckling/harassing other members for the sake of selfish private agendas that can compromise the safety of others.

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