Behind Blue Eyes

maskNo one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

-The Who


Oscar Wilde once said “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Last night we discussed griefers, people bent on hate and destruction. We decided that people can really show their true colours when they’re anonymous. That mild mannered fellow down the street? He may be a tyrant online. He may not show his hostility due to fear, but give him an online mask and he’s replicating pictures of swastikas and taking down sims.

We all wear masks to a certain extent. Not that we’re being fake, but some of us can overcompensate to protect how we feel. Hurting, self conscious people may seem like the life of the party, and if we don’t dig deeper we may only see their surface. I have friends who seem reserved but are actually thoughtful and caring, while others exude confidence but actually need a hug.

I am guilty of wearing a mask too. There was a time I felt quite hurt by something in Second Life. I held it in, not feeling brave (or trusting) enough to confide it to anyone. When I finally did trust someone enough to tell them, that friend was amazed. It never crossed their mind that I could be vulnerable too, and I think it was at that moment they saw me as an actual human!

As far as masks, they can only hold so long before something of the real person leaks through. My friend Seren also wrote about this in an article called Personae.

Those who become alts in Second Life and attempt to deceive usually reveal themselves soon. They simply can’t help it! When I was new to Second Life the same guy used to come around with different avatars. We lost count of his identities, but no matter who he tried to be as soon as he opened his mouth we knew who it was. He was unique and we just knew. Fortunately he wasn’t a bad guy. We actually felt sorry for him so we were nice to him and never let on that we knew.

This year I want to know people better, to have one on one conversations with those I usually only speak to in a group setting. This is how to get to know people, and even then it takes time. But I want to know more. I want to care about the people behind the mask.

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  1. I haven’t come across the Oscar Wilde quote before, but it’s spot on!

    I think your point about getting to know the person behind the mask is a valid one – it can be very easy, particularly in SL, to only see the mask and fail to realise there’s more to someone than meets the eye, I’ve actually been writing about something similar myself today, although it won’t be published for a while.

    We do need to be careful though: Many people who wear a mask, (and who do so for reasons that are not maliciously deceptive), do so for the element of security and protection such a mask provides. To attempt to probe beneath – even for the best reasons in the world – can be a painful, humiliating and distressing experience. I’d urge caution, trust and understanding are pre-requisites for true friendship, as is the wisdom to know when to allow another their privacy and security.

    A really good piece that highlights a few things that we all really should know, but tend to forget when immersed in SL!

    s. x

    1. Agree, Seren. For me personally it takes quite a while to trust enough to show someone the “real” me, or at least a deeper version of the real me. We need to not push people into revealing more than they feel comfortable doing at that time so as not to hurt them. I am so interested in people sometimes! I have to be careful to be considerate though because a person’s feelings are more important.

  2. A mask provides anonymity , and I think that probably has four different results :

    1) It may give you the courage or the confidence to actually be yourself or to speak honestly, as referenced in the Oscar Wilde quote above.

    2) It may allow the wearer to commit anti-social or criminal acts (such as a bank robbery) as there is little fear of recognition and thus punishment.

    Internet trolls and griefers are a mix of 1 & 2 above I think, as Shauna points out.

    3) It can give a sense of union and belonging to a group if everyone wears masks e.g. with the Guy Fawkes masks worn by the Anonymous movement. A uniform can function like a mask too, especially in regards to the military or the police, as it provides anonymity of sorts and re-casts the wearer as an anonymous instrument of state rather than an individual.
    A Second Life name can also function as a mask of sorts, in that it helps to hide the real person behind the avatar from online recognition. It can also reveal something about the person – if your user name is TonySoprano13 Resident it might be safe to say you are interested in gangster films or TV shows or something like that. Naturally our SL avatars mask who we really are, but they also unite us because we are all avatars.

    4) A mask can also be worn to give protection via anonymity, as Seren points out. If you are vulnerable or there are things you want to hide about yourself, a mask can be excellent protection : in this way it acts like a filter, only showing others what you want them to see, or showing others an ameliorated version of yourself. For me Second Life works like this. I can appear relatively normal and converse with people (via writing) in a way that I probably couldn’t very well in RL because I suffer from depression, OCD, anxiety, anger issues, a persecution complex and other mental health problems : in effect Second Life provides a substitute for my former RL which I can no longer follow.

  3. once told there are 4 levels of consciousness, maybe 4 levels for most things, fun, awareness, temptation,
    happiness, arousal, flirting so now there is because you just read it somewhere.
    now being me I head off to club night with a steely determination to ignore the crap that rl piles on me, i drop defences and go for the fun things at level 1, why? simple I like fun and a good laugh, so masks are determined by ways and means for wants and needs and which side of the mask you are!
    I have seen things you people would not believe, attack ships on fire off the shoulders of orion
    I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near tannhausers gate
    all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain, time to die.
    and go to sl and have a bloody good time

  4. Great article Shauna, all very valid points! Loved everyone’s comments, again all very valid!

    Just wanted to add… I love you guys for all of the amazing, unique and rich wonderfulness that each of you bring to my life…

    As for me, I hope I have no mask in any reality… I don’t “try” to be me because I am me, all the time… I come with faults and flaws like everyone else, and yes I too am very vulnerable a lot of the time … but Tobi helped save me from some of that, made me realise my “barriers” were actually keeping the really good stuff out!

    What most do not see is that I can be shy, quiet, reserved, deeply sensitive and, on occasion, depressed… I try not to bring those things into SL because SL is my “happy” time, a time to cast all those cares and trials of RL away, as Dugi said, and just let my hair down and enjoy! I know some of you experience similar feelings as I, and that draws me closer to you all in that sense of understanding, support and compassion…

    But for all my negatives, there are many more positives – mad, crazy, silly, daft and Essex Bird Divine Law is here and eternally at your service! Long may we reign in all realities my lovelies!


  5. For me it’s a case of ‘when I am wearing the mask?’. Going into SL, meeting you guys on a Friday night, week over, is a huge release for me. I spend my week curbing frustrations, curbing my tongue and curbing my personality, it’s no one’s fault of course, I’m just not a good fit. I float down, 20 minutes late, of a Friday night and all that is gone, every last scrap just evaporates. I get that people can be and often are different in RL, and I see it leak through every so often, but personally I feel I’m closer to myself in those hours than any other. The eyepatch is simply an affectation by the way, it’s not a mini-mask, I’m just a bit pirate.

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