Though we have virtual bodies and ways to express ourselves in Second Life, it’s still possible to have misunderstandings. If you look at my avatar, I seem ok. I use a decent AO, and am usually dressed all right. In real life, however, I could be crying. I could be standing on my head or singing. If I stopped long enough to type a sentence now and then, no one in SL would even know!
Even in first life, we can hide what we’re feeling. How many people at work have wanted to punch a boss but instead nodded seriously and said “Yes, sir” instead? In forced social situations we often smile and act graciously when we really want to take a nap.
If we’re close friends with a person in Second Life we can often read them without seeing or hearing them. We can tell by their text, the way they stand; and we get familiar with what is normal for them. If they deviate from their usual behavior we see it – and some are better at noticing than others.
Being able to read people is a mixed blessing. Knowing what’s really going on can be positive, but for those who are sensitive, it can also be a curse. If we could read minds would we really want to? Do we really want to know?
I usually pick up on most things, but occasionally I miss it. Once something I interpreted as just banter was actually someone getting offended. I’m so used to friends teasing that it’s easy to forget that even those who joke around occasionally take things wrong or say something not-so-nice. Miscommunication is bound to happen in Second Life. It happens in first life where we see facial expressions and hear a tone of voice, so how much more in a virtual world? If a misunderstanding occurs (and it will at some point) we have to figure out the best way to deal with it. This can be challenging, but if we do our best to make things right, that’s all we can do.
2 thoughts on “Misunderstandings in a Virtual World”
Misinterpretation has always been the bugbear of e-mails. They don’t convey the nuances and inflexions of the human voice. The same goes in-world. One can easily come to the wrong conclusion, and, to fire back with a volley of chastisement can lead to a deep loss of the bond that binds us. Believe me, I know.
So powerful are these feelings of resentment, they can even affect our real lives. Becoming moody, annoyed, disappointed or in despair can all result from a miscommunication in-world. Or indeed any communication that is in the negative. Why? Because despite being just avatars, the emotions and feelings behind those virtual relationships are every bit as potent as in the real world. We become ourselves with all the values of trust, respect, upset, anger… and it is because we care.
People say do not get so attached to your avatar, it’s just a game. I disagree because try as hard as I might, my avatar is me. I’m not the sort of person to detach, Lord knows I have tried. Second Life has become a deeply entrenched way of life for me, with all the trappings of real-life emotions. One has to think more carefully about how one reacts in-world, mainly due to the misinterpretation and/or the reactive emotions of others. Not everyone sees SL as just a game.
Disabled people rely on it for their wellness mentally. Many people have different social and medical reasons for being part of SL, some heartbreaking to hear, some inspirational.
I have met and chatted with many who need Second Life in their lives. When I listen to their stories, it makes me realise just how important a role SL plays in the mental wellbeing of many. And communication is key. But, it can so easily go wrong and turn worlds upside down. We must all be careful of each other. I’ve sometimes learned the hard way, but strive to keep a lid on those angry emotions, and moments that cause anxiety.
Well said, Anthony. Thanks for your thoughtful comment on this.