Talk is Cheap


Is the impact of these difficult fiscal times starting to be felt in Second Life? I ask because over the course of the last couple of weeks the writers for Moonletters appear to be showing a somewhat more guarded approach to matters of a financial nature than we are used to seeing.

I’ve detected a slight undercurrent of indignation about the sometimes poor attitude of some store owners towards their customers and those who support them, along with a note of concern about the ever-rising cost of keeping abreast of content and new developments. Then there’s the thorny issue of ‘tipping’ and financially supporting inworld entertainment venues, which has raised it’s ugly head on more than one occasion just recently in these pages, and elsewhere in the metaverse. Could it be that the cost of SLiving is starting to be felt a little more keenly than perhaps we’re used to?

Maybe we are feeling the pinch, but one of the beauties about Second Life is that sometimes the most rewarding of experiences can be the least costly. I remember a family member who would always buy a toy for her pet cat at Christmas and then was invariably put out when the moggie in question turned its little feline nose up at the hand-crafted squeaky mouse and spent the rest of the day chasing the ball of paper the toy was wapped in! I’m sure too that we’ve all been told stories of how, when we were toddlers we would always have more fun playing with the cardboard box, rather than the expensive toy that had been packed in it. In these difficult times, perhaps we should be applying the same sort of principles to Second Life?

Any cyber-geek fundamentalist will delight in mortifying us seasoned Second Life residents by reminding us that our virtual world is nothing more than an internet chat room with a funky graphical user interface. Our normal reaction to such a statement is to throw up our hands in horror and invoke the Linden Lab mission statement – The Tao of Linden. To admit they might be right is, of course, heresy… But, is it time to consider embracing the fundamentalist view? More than that, what if I was to say that to do so doesn’t necessarily compromise our assertion that Second Life is far more than ‘just a chat room’ and, in fact, is in complete harmony with the stated wider aims of Second Life?

Before you lynch me, allow me to explain:

There are moments I’ve experienced in Second Life that have summed up for me what my virtual lifestyle is about; occasions that are treasured memories I can recall in detail, even though they may have occurred some time ago. There are occasions that I’ve been more myself, more open, more vulnerable than at any other time; moments that have made me laugh, cry, pontificate, argue, listen and become more involved with my fellow residents than in any other situation… What are these special, important, valued occasions? – They are, perhaps the most simple and basic of situations we can contrive in Second Life: They are times spent in the company of others, simply talking.

The dictionary definition of ‘chat’ is: An informal conversation (n); to talk in a friendly and informal way (v). This is something that Second Life allows us to do, par excellence. However, unlike a traditional internet chat room, Second Life allows us to contextualise our chat and sets us at our ease, so that we feel we are having a real life conversation: We forget that we’re typing at a keyboard and become a talker, a listener, an observer.

The illusion is so strong that we can become uncomfortable if things don’t seem to fit into the context we are imagining. So we find that if our avatar is standing in conversation for too long, we’ll start to fidget uncomfortably, until someone suggests sitting-down. Then, when we sit, it somehow feels right; we relax, and the conversation continues. If our AO shifts our focus from the person we’re speaking to, we struggle – just as in real life, we need that eye contact… even body language comes into play: Unless we’re comfortable with what our avatar’s body is saying to those with whom we’re chatting, then we ourselves are discomforted. In the same way, if those to whom we are chatting are projecting the wrong message through their own posture, our conversation can be stifled.

So we meet to talk in the same manner that we would choose in real life – in pubs, gardens, our homes and public spaces and, when everything comes together, it can be a revelation.

I’ve had some fascinating philosophical conversations in Second Life, covering a vast array of subjects and at levels that range from flippant and humorous to deep and soul-searching. I’ve laughed and joked with friends, had serious personal discussions, talked business, pleasure and everything in between. I’ve shared insight, ideas, inspiration, feelings and unimportant, everyday chit-chat and I can happily ‘waste’ hours, idling away the time in happy conversation with friends.

Second Life is great at bringing people together – we can converse one-to-one, (even at a distance), or as a group, to the world in general in open chat or with a few special people in a crowded room. The possibilities are endless, greater even than those we get in the real world. It is a fantastic and wonderful thing, so let’s not forget the simple pleasure of good conversation as we fly, teleport and do all the other remarkable things that Second Life allows to indulge in! It’s free too – talking to friends costs absolutely nothing, but the rewards can be rich indeed.

I’ll return, if I may, to the Tao of Linden, which states: ‘There’s love in the spirit of our mission, the enjoyment we take in each others’ company, the style and humor we have at our best.’ It strikes me that you couldn’t find a better definition for the cameraderie, the sense of belonging and the joy that is felt when good friends can get together for a proper, old natter!

Funnily enough, it was chatting with a friend that inspired this article!

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