A lovely bloke in Second life has been a big support this past week as I hid away from the pressures of my current reality and found solace inside my virtual world.
I went seeking company.
The irony is that I can very well seek the company of Real life friends and family here at home. I can visit flesh and blood people in their homes, or places of work and pour out my heart.
I have done that.
I have done plenty of that. I have poured tears and pain onto the shoulders of loved ones, wetting their clothes and causing their brows to furrow in concern and empathy. I have been supported, loved, honoured, protected, encased, endowed and lifted by the real life love of others.
So why would I seek to deny myself some more of that attention and go looking for it in a 3D cartoonesque landscape with impossible constraints in my ability to hug, hold, sob and be caressed out of this personal pain?
Because inside Second Life, the dichotomy between privacy and intimacy is defined and solved... exactly.
We all know the experience of telling a stranger our life story! Caught up on buses, trains, in planes, on boats or at large communal gatherings! You meet someone and somehow for whatever reason, you find yourself so drawn to them, you admit past sins, current failings, pain, sorrow; story after story of your past, your present and what you hope for in the future. You feel free to express all this and it even surprises you that you can so easily in front of someone you do not know and expect never to know well unless you exchange addresses and phone numbers of course.
We rarely engage with those same people beyond that first dramatically intimate conversation though. Even when we exchange personal information, it's difficult to justify taking it to the next step... toward the mutual intimacy of repeated friendship. Once we spill our guts on the first meeting, it feels somehow rude to keep up that relationship.
Safety. It's just about safety. Keeping things private and still all the while being able to be intimate.
This is what Second Life does for people. Except with a twist of extraordinary proportions. It's a shift in communication protocol for many.
Second life allows people to remain completely and entirely Anonymous and yet affords them the ability to become completely and entirely Intimate as well. One can speak to strangers, receive virtual hugs, be gently (but virtually) 'held' by another real life person but via a platform where both real life people can keep their identity very very safe.
Trust is synonymous with safety. You cannot trust without being assured that you are kept safe.
Many people who come to second life are looking for more than just an escape from their private first lives. They want CONNECTION AND INTIMACY.
Sometimes seeking that in their first life is a tedious, painful, terrifying process. As my friend Dave Pollard says in this post... people are judged by how they appear. We do it so instinctively in our first life we aren't aware of how much we alienate others from expressing their truth just through our infinitesimal reactions to their overt appearances.
If we don't' feel safe...we rarely if ever trust. If we don't/can't trust...then we rarely if ever achieve the intimacy we so desperately crave.
The twist to Second Life that is so extraordinary is that you can merely add that other person as a "friend" to your friends list. They keep their real life identity intact. You do not ever need to learn where they're from, what they actually do, who they really are; you just have their SL name. You can see if they're online in world (if they choose for you to be able to do that), and you can reconnect easily with them any time its convenient.
You can choose to engage some people in voice and some in text and still others in both forms of communication simultaneously.
No wonder, some people become addicted to it. In Second Life you can be whatever you choose to be. You can hide. You can be "yourself". You can be an essence of the real life "self" you think yourself to be. You can retain and keep your personal identity entirely your own and yet still find enormous affection, warmth, friendship, honesty and incredible depth to the relationships you form inside this world.
Its so much EASIER to be open and share your soul when you know you cannot be judged for your packaging.
It's so much EASIER to relate to others one on one in a peaceful environment of sunshine or starlight when you don't have to wonder if you have food stuck between your teeth or why they just looked distracted when you were telling them about some embarrassing story from your childhood.
Second Life may seem "unrealistic" and may seem to lack "integrity" but that isn't always true. Integrity is a double edged sword. Integrity in real life with real faces, real bodies, real tears and very real, very discomforting habits is much, much harder than finding integrity and subsequently, genuine intimacy, through relationships in this anonymous virtual world.
Once deep trust and intimacy is established, Second Life affords people a way of moving toward more personal connections beyond the virtual environment if they both choose that. It is paced accordingly as people become comfortable with the progression of these new relationships.
Of course, unhealthy, codependent relationships are also found in this virtual world. This is probably the biggest "problem" with such a platform as Second Life. Damaged people of both genders who fall in love too much, too soon with people they assume they have gotten to "know" in world.
Yes! They might know them very well but it's important to keep perspective even so. Second life is fantastic for making new friends but I would never recommend permanent online relationships inside of this world without first acknowledging the move past anonymity to their real life physical identities. After all, nothing can really replace First Life for the Security of enduring, reality-based relationships!
The bloke I spoke to in world this week, gave me the gift of being there for me when I needed a safe place to let go and be "myself" without having to bare it all.
I am so thankful for surprise gifts like these.