These last couple of weeks I've been introduced to the "virtual world" of Second Life as part of a course that I'm taking on Computer-Mediated Communication for Language Learning.
For neophytes like me who were clueless as to the existence of this 3-D virtual continent, Second Life allows you to create and design an avatar that looks, sounds, and acts any darn way you like. Even more, you can purchase property and design businesses, parks, buildings, amusement parks--anything your heart desires. What's really mind boggling is that Second Life actually has its own economy where you can buy and sell these creations for "lindens," which can subsequently be cashed in for U.S. Dollars. Enterprising computer geeks have made a virtual fortune, becoming millionaires in the process.
Sounds pretty nifty, huh.
Despite the adrenaline rush of entering this high-tech world where I can fly and flirt with ripped men in muscle shirts (who are almost as good-looking as my husband), I hated the experience.
I stand ethically opposed to all of the time and resources that are being spent on the expansion of this virtual world when there is so much need for improvement in our real one. While I was plummetting hundreds of feet in my virtual world and bouncing up without a scratch, my daughter fell two feet from her chair and ended up in a sea of tears with a bloody mouth to boot.
Our world cannot prosper off of a virtual economy where the only creations are found on a flat screen. What's happened to the pride that we used to have in getting our hands dirty making things that you can touch, smell, taste, experience?
For Jason, architecture school has been a bit of a disappointment because so much of the design work has been replaced by computer modelling. There seems to be a great disconnect in the way that many of today's architecture students can't even draw--taking the art out of architecture. Designs are influenced, if not controlled, by what the computer is able to render, making you wonder whether the technology or the profession is really in charge.
I wonder what my Zimbabwean friends and family would think if they knew that people were investing all of these funds into Second Life when they don't have enough to eat in their first one? Can they make sadza out of virtual corn? As Americans, don't we feel a twinge of guilt investing in Lindens when the U.S. dollar is tottering dangerously?
Let's face it, at it's core, virtual is rather fake. I find it ironic that I have to spend ten times as much time choosing my outfit and altering my appearance online than I do in reality. When I asked a Second Life expert why I should even care, I was basically told that if you look like a Newbie in this virtual world, nobody will talk to you. That seems pretty backward for a world where you're supposedly free to express your true inner self and have people accept you.
Personally, I think it's time that people stopped trying to create a better second life for themselves, and focus on the real one they're actually living instead. If you want to meet new people, try knocking on the door of the stranger who lives next door. In this virtual world of global connectedness, we've neglected the closest relationships that could nourish our minds and souls in a very real way. So Second Life, you can get a life. I've already got one.