Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's not second life or first life...it's just life.

RANT ALERT If you don't like it when I cuss, skip this one. The vocabulary got out of control.

Some poor schmuck recently did yet another one of those shallow, whiny blog posts about "I went to Second Life and I couldn't figure it out and it was full of strange pervy folks and it's dying because it's not (choose one):

a. Twitter
b. Facebook
c. World of Warcraft
d. all of the above
e. chocolate

I didn't feel the need to comment there on the actual post, because plenty of other intelligent folks dog-piled on the feckless turd, pointing out that he had not done enough actual exploration of SL to comment on anything other than his own brief experience, and that his comparisons between SL and the most broadly used social media applications are an apples and oranges thing. I was quite pleased to see our friends Fogwoman Grey and Emilly Orr, among others, pretty much make the author their bitch.

And I'm not really going to bother with commenting on his post here either, except to get one thing off my chest. I was really, really, really fucking irritated by the one-panel cartoon the author (or someone) selected to go with his text. It showed this geeky looking clodpoll sitting at a computer while some bitch (his mom? his wife? his dad dressed in drag?) says with a sneering expression:

"Second Life? Please, you don't even have a FIRST life."

First of all, it pissed me off because it had nothing to do with what the author was writing about. I hate lazy assholes, and it was obvious that some lazy asshole had put the cartoon there just because The Idiot's Guide to Blogging says "to succeed as a blogger you have to keep your posts short because your readers are spit-dribbling retards, and you also must have an illustration because they are visually-oriented spit-dribbling retards as well...so go ahead, stick some kind of a picture in there even if it has little or nothing to do with your subject matter."

It would have been so easy for this dumb, cockchafing lackwit to take a fuckin' screenshot while he was in SL (unless of course, he was too goddam dirt-eating stupid to figure out how to take a screenshot). Then at least his illustration would have had something to do with what he was writing about.

But noooooooo...he got this half-assed cartoon from somewhere and plugged it in.

So that was one thing that irritated me. Now on to the other:

The subject matter of the cartoon was the same old, tired, feeble arrogance about people who spend lots of times on their computers--not just in Second Life, but in any virtual context--needing to "get a life."

Ok, boys and girls, here's the fucking deal:

There is no difference between so-called "first life" and the unfortunately named Second Life.

If you are doing something...whatever you are doing and whatever context you do it in: it is life.

Do you enjoy it? Does it help you pass the time when you are not doing shit that someone else is making you do? Then it is valid. No one, and that means NO ONE has the right to tell you that you need to "get a life" or that you "have no life."

Why is it that so many people look at what someone else is doing, and if it is not what they would be doing with their free time, they think that it ain't valid or worthwhile? That is just plain and simple, utter cocktwaddle. Hey, I don't like football. But if you like to play football every chance you get, or you like to watch the sport on TV every goddam weekend, then that is just fucking awesome as far as I am concerned. The fact that I don't give a rat's tookus about football doesn't mean that you guys who like the game and care about it passionately need to cut it the fuck out and "get a life."

Everybody needs something to do...to add something to their lives other than merely existing. Even early Paleolithic people who lived in caves and dressed in furs, and who scrabbled just to survive from day to day...they drew cool pictures on the rocks, invented a calendar of sorts, and probably danced and sang, and more than likely laughed when someone farted.

It doesn't matter what you choose to do beyond just surviving--whether it is playing canasta, ballroom dancing, going to Nascar races, watching old movies, gardening, reenacting Civil War battles, refinishing furniture, brewing your own beer, fixing old trucks, rescuing abandoned cats, writing poetry, feeding slot machines at an Indian casino, singing in the goddam church choir, playing video games, or making stuff and fartin' around with your friends in Second Life...it's valid, it's worthwhile...and it's life. It's part of what makes you a human being.

I was thinking about this issue even before I saw the dumb-ass cartoon. This time of year is always hard on many Second Lifers. You're visiting the relatives and someone asks about that online thing you're doing, and you have to try to explain Second Life to them...and they kind of smile, while their eyes regard you with this mixture of pity, contempt and confusion. And maybe even fear.

Well fuck them. Either people get it or they don't, and if they don't, then they at least should respect what you do.

They may say, "oh but you spend so much time doing it! You're in front of that computer for hours!"

Yeah? So what?

Look--unless something is completely passive, or dumbed down to the most basic level so that even a retarded penguin with the reading comprehension abilities of Glenn Beck can master it--anything we choose to do is going to take a lot of time and practice and effort if we want to get good at it.

You want to play an instrument or a sport? Then you gotta practice--you have to put a lot of time into it.

Fix cars? You gotta sink a lot of time into gettin' greasy and laying underneath big chunks of metal with rust flakes falling in your eyes.

You wanna paint pretty pictures? Then you gotta take classes and practice and keep painting, over and over.

You want to do well at video games? You gotta put in your hours with the controller and get those finger callouses.

Likewise, if you want to get good at doing stuff in Second Life: it's just like all those other things--it's going to take a lot of time. You have to put in the hours, maybe take some classes, do a lot of experimenting, and keep working at it.

That's all there is to it.

Like many things in life, it takes time and effort and practice to get good at SL, to really maximize what you get out it.

Which does kind of bring us to the question about the advisability of re-working SL so that it can accommodate the mega-masses. To survive and flourish, do the Lindens need to make SL so that anyone can come in and there will be things planned out for them to do, and that getting started is simple, with outfits and avatars that can be easily made up, and a house that is easily put in place, and they won't be bothered about making stuff and all that?

Guess what...that platform already existed.

It was called The Sims Online.

And it did work...for a while.

Hey...skiing is generally regarded as a successful past time, right? Lots of people enjoy doing it and lots of businesses make good money off it. But you can't just run up and start doing it without the right equipment, some lessons, some practice, etc. etc. It's not for everyone, and you can't just jump on the slope and instantly do it perfectly, right? Yeah, you can get started, but you won't be able to do it as well as you can after you been doing it for a while.

So why should SL be different from that?

Not everything in life has to be easy for everyone.

But I digress.

My main point is that these arrogant morons need to stop sniveling about Second Lifers needing to get a life. Like this cartoon--it's good for a cheap laugh from people who know nothing about the platform--but it just oozes a smarmy ignorance that is unconscionable. Just remember bucko, whatever you are doing, there is someone else somewhere who will look at what you do and say "you have no life," Mr. cartoonist guy.

And when they do, you have every right to tell them to go crap in their hat and pull it down over their ears and bark at the moon. But then don't turn around and tell me that what I'm doing in Second Life is somehow less valid than what you're doing in your spare time on your blog or video games, or in your garden or in your bathroom. Cuz after all, you have a hat too, and I am about to tell you what you can do with it.


  1. Brava! Brava! You touch on several of my favorite points about Second Life.

  2. I agree with every word of this post.

    Except I do think that people who spends months and years of their life in front of a slot machine in a casino do need to get a life. For God's sake, at least play Black Jack or something, so you have to interact with other humans.

  3. Hey, y'all, thank you for the huzzah and all, even though a part of me thinks it would be better for society as a while if you didn't encrouage me when I get all wrought up like this.

    And to 6pood8341c77bo53ef (is it ok if I call you "6pood " for short?), I understand what you're saying about the slot-feeders and that you would expect them to need more human contact, but Hon, you know, that's a big part of where I was goin' with this. People find what they need. For a lot of people an activity like that is very absorbing and just totally takes them to a place where they can be by themselves while still in the middle of a large number of other folks.

    I don't pretend to be any kind of psychobabbly thinkmeister (I just play one on the web), but I can see how some people might need that kind of thing in their lives. People, I think, for the most part, tend to find activities that fill some need in their lives.

    It's like how my ex-husband number one's father spent a lot of time--and I mean a LOT of time working on old cars, usually by himself. And if you ever met his wife you would understand precisely WHY he chose to spend much of his time hiding underneath a leaky 1964 Impala. He really, really needed that time by himself.

    So it's like I said in the post: let's not be judging. Yeah, I wouldn't want to go spend that much time playin' one-armed bandits by myself either, but hey...I guess I just need something different than that in my life.

  4. Thanks Lalo. I appreciate the kind the words, specially coming from a smart critter like yourself. But I just call it like I see it. And I just feel that our collective discussion does not make much sense unless we stop compartmentalizing those aspects of our lives that extend into virtual spaces

  5. Thanks, Dio - That cartoon bugged me too.
    I've been thinking a lot about this "get a life" issue for years. Nobody seems to be able to define what "a life" would be.

    It's like beauty - you can never quite get there. It's something other people have but you don't -- or if through luck and hard work you do have it, you are always afraid that someday you will loose it.

  6. I was really annoyed by the person who wrote in his comments that he visited a SL library and had to wait a whole ten minutes for the "librarian" to walk across a room and climb on a ladder to retrieve information for him. He added that it could have taken him just two minutes to goggle the information. Well I don't know what library he visited, but some people should realized that the first 3 pages of Google results (and most information seekers don't pass the 3rd page) are not the type of reliable and authoritative information a librarian can provide. And that, yes!, the resources many of the libraries on SL have to offer are collected by RL librarians. Shoot, don't get me started!

  7. Hey Rhia,

    Well, the whole "get a life" thing is certainly not something that started just witht he development of the internet--as long as I can remember, people have been sneering at anyone who commits themselves to something as a past time, whether it was collecting stamps, or taking photos of trains and locomotives, or curling, or birdwatching, and so on.

    Now if people bitched about something like...you need some more balance in your life" THAT I could kind of understand a bit more. After all, there are those of us who do things to excess--drinking, playing golf, playing second life, having sex, collecting salt and pepper shaker sets--in a way that is unhealthy and which damages, rather than enhances our lives. But again, that's not limited to virtual activities--and it is actually a different issue from the "get a life" mantra.

    Hey again Caro,
    yep, libraries are actually one of focal points for some of the most creative and interesting activities in SL. Our virtual librarians are often leaders in innovative experimentation with the technology. I think librarians are among those who have done a particularly good job of integrating virtual elements into their personal and professional lives.

    Anyone have any thoughts on why that is?

  8. Dio, you must be reading my mail. One thing that really offends me is the snarky "You must have abundant free time on your hands" whenever I post something here or there. Such a response is dismissive of the passion that goes into creative effort and hugely patronizing. I feel the same way towards "first life snobs" who primly stick their noses in the air and proclaim "I'm too engaged in my first life to be interested in your second life, thanks". Gaaah, fine.. just don't ramble on about whatever Xbox/Wii/PS2/NFL/ whatever obsession that's crowding your attention in response.

  9. Hey O'Toole,

    Yeah...that's the whole point here--people have time when they do stuff that they are required to do and then time when they get to choose what they do.

    That is what makes up a person's "life."

    If we are going to insist on making a distinction between a "first life" and a "second life," then arguably this is where we should differentiate between the two: between the "first life" of doing what we need to do (like have a job, fulfill family responsibilities, etc.), and the "second life" of doing what we choose to do to enhance our lives and espand who we are and to just have fun. Looking at things that way, ANYTHING we choose to do extra, be it join a bowling league, jump around in front of the WII, run marathons, or be in Second Life--that all is a person's "second life."

    The thing is of course--and part of the reason why I think we should look at our lives in a more integrated, rather than a compartmentalized way, is that the line between "what we gotta do" and what we choose to do" is often very, very blurred. And I frankly think that blurring effect is actually a very good thing in most cases.

    I really fuckin' wish LL had named their platform something else...ANYTHING else, like "Philworld" or "Happy-make-any-goddam-thing-you-want-land" or "Plugged-in" or "Melting Pot" or "Elysium Express" or shit...something other than "second life,"

    But they didn't. So we just gotta deal.

  10. Thanks for the great post! I was just ruminating on a similar subject myself. And I was irritated by the cartoon on that cretin's posting myself, but mainly from a "rolling my eyes at the height of wit from 2006" perspective.
    Having spent 15 years with a dear fellow whose idea of recreation was plopping his ass on the sofa at day's end for endless hours of passive entertainment I adore the opportunity to participate in a community and to interact with other fascinating human beings from all over the world.
    I certainly never would have met anyone as fascinating as Dio watching Mythbusters ;)

  11. Hiya Dio - TY for catching this one and sharing. Gawd I've lost count of how many ppl say to me "Oooh, I've got enough with one life without needing a second!"

    I may kill the next fucker who opens their dumb flaphole and let's that pearl of shite dribble out.

  12. Uh oh..I had best go re-write my post on my blog explaining why I have been too busy in my "real life" to play in "second life"...........great piece, Dio!

  13. hey Marrant,

    Well as I have explained in yet another post on related matters, I think the corollary to "all these things are just parts of one life" is that you do have to try to keep the parts in balance. And sometimes that means spending more time making cute dresses for SL and sometimes it means spending time face-to-face with blood relations in meatspace.

    Yeah to some extent I suppose you could say it's a matter of semantics--it's just word choice. But sometimes how we use our words and thee words we use shape our understanding of what we are doing.