Friday, 24 August 2007

Turbulent times

These seem to be turbulent times. In the last few days two of my friends told me independently they and their significant other are splitting up. The situations are rather different though. In one case my friend, let's call him Fred, decided to leave because his long time girlfriend Ginger admitted to him she fell in love with someone else. In an other case my friend Eve's husband Adam is about to leave her because she confessed she "knew" someone in the biblical sense. Wait a sec ... didn't I say the situations were quite different? Well, in Ginger's case the proverbial green grass on the other side of the fence is a RL person in Eve's he is a Second Life avatar.

So is there a difference? After all, the net result is the same; two couples who have been together for years are about to split up. Does it matter whether Eve fell for an avatar and Ginger for some real life person? I think it does for a number of reasons. When we fall in love with someone we're always on our best bewitching behaviour to convince the other party we deserve a chance with them. How much easier is it to hide behind a flashy avatar than is to hide behind your toothpaste smile? I would say a lot. Sooner or later inevitably the smile will show some cracks but you can hide behind the av reasonably comfortably forever unless and until you decide to meet up in person. In SL there will always be a larger degree of wishful projections about the other party and their feelings even though it rarely feels that way.

Now there is also the matter of sex and adultery. Here I think things are a lot less clear. What is worse, Eve looking at pixels exchange bodily fluids whilst having a racy conversation or Ginger going out with her friend for a beer, holding hands and exchanging dreamy looks knowing all too well what they both rather be doing? I think the clue is in that last bit "what they would rather be doing", because basically that's what it is in both cases; the expression of a longing, not the act itself or lack thereof. Both Eve and Ginger respond to the social rules of their environment and we all know those are a lot more liberal in SL than they are in RL. Ginger is held back from the next step by her own morality and/or social constraints whilst for Eve there is no next step but to take things out of SL into real life.

That's why, if I was in Fred's shoes, I would probably leave as well. Ginger has decided she wants to devote her love to someone else. If I were in Adam's shoes I wouldn't and I know that for sure because I'm still married. Eve explored some fantasies and satisfied her curiosity in a limitless fantasy world. Don't we all fantasise about that new and exciting stranger at one time or other or of indulging in that kinky thing we would never even contemplate in RL? SL provides the sandbox to experiment with those fantasies. Does that mean you want to give up on an existing RL relationship? Of course not.

Fantasy and creativity are what makes us human and sets us apart from your average chimp. SL gives us the space to experiment without fear for consequences other than a better insight into what makes each of us tick. Consequences usually arise from the fact many can't deal with the newfound freedom or because of judgemental people that don't understand the nature of SL. So does experimenting make us adulterous? Of course not.

Right now my heart bleeds for Fred, Ginger, Adam and Eve although for different reasons.

Now before you shoot, I respect the fact we are all individuals, situations vary and a multitude of factors can come into play. Human emotions are not an exact science, I see that all around me on a daily basis. SL provides us with a unique chance that, if used wisely, can help us gain an insight into aspects of ourselves that might otherwise remain hidden.

My opinion until proven wrong...
may it never be ;-)


cindykesey said...

Ah, poor Ginger. It is unfortunate when people mistakenly think they have fallen in love with the RL person behind the SL avatar to such a degree that they are willing to sacrifice other RL relationships. In my opinion, it is only the idea of the person who captures our heart. Since we can't know them completely, these online loves are like swiss cheese; we fill the holes with what we who them to be. They only show us who they are when they choose to, whereas in RL we see the good, bad, and the ugly of our mates. And, since the feelings of love can trigger some strong brain chemicals, it's a pretty murky soup we concoct when engaging in SL romance. Making RL decisions based on that complexity seems to me like building your house on shifting sand.

veronique kaminski said...

Supporting Fred, and not Adam, it is very clear you make a distinction between the 2 situations Loki..
So, is Gingers case worse because it happened (but what DID happen exactly?) in RL, and Eves only in a fantasy world?..

The key issue for me is: the definition of fantasy.. To which point can you stretch a fantasy world? When does it cross a border and starts interacting with reality?
For me, fantasy is something that happens in your head.. a little mindgame with your own. And thus, by definition, private.
Of course one can argue about the private issue here.. E.g. an author can write down his fantasies in a book, available for the whole world to read.. But still, even then, it stays his/hers personal thing.. It remains one-way traffic.. unchangeable..

But when one, like Eve did, starts not only sharing the ideas with somebody else, but also let this other person interact with your fantasy, maybe even steering it, blending it with his own imagination… doesn’t it become something else then??
What is the difference then with a couple playing a.. lets say nurse and patient game in their bedroom?? Yes.. there is of course the physical separation by a couple of routers and miles of telephone-cables,… but mentally???

I am not judging, on none of them. Hey, me too I used SL a couple of times to live or fulfill a kinky mental desire..
And neither do I think that real love can exist in SL, I do back you up on your point that it is to easy to hide..

But I acknowledge that there can exist a form of passion, lust in SL… a bit the feelings that can drive us to a RL one-night stand..
So, to me, what Eve did is the equivalent of a short affaire… Involving somebody else, she took it beyond mere fantasy..
And, equally like if it happened in RL, I can understand it if her partner can not live with the idea..
Even if there is no real love involved.. because neither there is when you have a quicky with a stranger..

And in that case one has to bear the consequences..

ps: why is it, that in both cases, it sounds like if the girls/women are to blame??? :-{

ps2: happy to see that you finally reached home, and are not perishing somewhere in a gutter.. :-p

Loki said...

@Cindy: I'm afraid I didn't make it sufficiently clear Ginger & Fred are RL friends of mine and a RL couple. Other then that I agree with you the mix of online romance and projected RL fantasies is a slippery slope.

@Veronique: I do indeed make a distinction between RL & SL. I'll agree it's not always easy as Cindy pointed out. The point I was trying to make is that if you can see SL as some sort of sandbox it allows you a freedom you can't attain in RL.

It was far from my intention to judge anyone, least of all Eve who in my opinion just explored something she was missing in RL without the intent of hurting anyone. As far as Ginger is concerned, I think she has to follow her heart. Staying with Fred just for the sake of staying would be wrong and even more painful in the end.

On a side note, I'm happy to say that since the blog was posted the situation between Eve and Adam has evolved. It looks like they will stay together after all and I think the whole situation may end up a blessing in disguise. Through it all they have both discovered aspects of themselves and their relationship they didn't realise were there before. Even though it will take some time for the dust to settle I'm sure they will benefit from their new found insight.

Veronique Kaminski said...

"you can see SL as some sort of sandbox it allows you a freedom you can't attain in RL..."

completely agree with you there Loki..

but it also implies that one cannot just see it as an innocent fantasy game..

if one sees SL as a sandbox for FL, one reckons the fact that SL has his influence on RL.. that you can take whatever you build/learned in the sandbox out of it, and that you can implement it..
It obtains a kind of reality.. not only for you, but also for the people around..

so, Adams initial reaction was quiet understandable..

Loki said...

Well Veronique, I guess it depends on how you define "sandbox". Being in IT for me this is the one I had in mind: "A protected, limited environment where applications are allowed to "play" without risking damage to the rest of the system for testing purposes."

Maybe I should have clarified that. Fact remains that after you tested you can indeed use it outside the sandbox but you will have a clearer view of what you can expect.

Anonymous said...

Hey, loki - it's Silver.

I think both experiences raise issues that need to be discussed with the RL spouse. If you fall in love with someone else, virtually or not, that's going to cause some confusing feelings that will affect your relationship.

Of course, you know I'm not an advocate for flying off the handle and declaring the relationship over just because my partner was attracted to another person. Time for discussion! What do both parties want? what do they feel comfortable with?

I agree, it's very easy to dream about someone you meet online and wonder what it would be like to be with that person irl, but you have to confront the RL implications and decide how far you should go with it.

For me, sex in SL is the equivalent of my RL partner's porn collection. However, romance, caring, friendship - those enhance my life. They are deep and meaningful, but don't replace my relationship with my RL partner. I'm trying to say, I would hope our spirits are big enough to encompass many kinds of love.

Anonymous said...

I think you are missing the picture here. You can not (if you fall in love with someone) keep SL & RL apart Theres is no way that can happen. If you are happy with your RL partner your not going to be looking for love or sex in SL anyway. You will never change my mind on this. If you are looking for sex in SL or a wild night out in SL its because something is missing in your RL. Sorry if this steps on some toes but that how I see it.

I have had it happen and it was because something was missing in my life..

Jordyn Carnell said...

Come to your blog late Loki.. enjoyed the thoughts in the post.. especially the definition of a sandbox you gave in the comment above. I think I may quote it sometime.

I'll throw out this thought for those that follow this thread: Love doesn't happen in SL, chatrooms, email, or skype. before this technology it didn't happen on the phone or in letters.

It doesn't happen in cafe's, parks or bedrooms even.

It happens inside our heads, and in our hearts.

my 2¢