June 23, 2009

Second Life (Or, Streaking Through Cyberspace)

I'm 36 and I know, objectively, that isn't really old but tell my body that when I get up in the morning and I realize I'm sore from, of all things, sleeping. And I don't want to be one of those pathetic 36 year old guys who tries to be 21-year-old-hip, if you know what I mean. Like, I'm not going to suddenly trade my VW wagon for a tricked out Civic, start listening to Lil Wayne and watching Gossip Girl. That's kinda pathetic. But I'm an IT guy and so much of our culture is now somehow grounded in technology that I feel the need to do my very best to try and keep up. I've got Facebook and Twitter accounts, I keep track of what I read online, I have a smartphone, I txt msg (OMFG!!), I maintain (though somewhat less regularly than I used to) an online photo gallery, I've embraced email as my primary form of communication, I have an entire library of music stored electronically with redundant, nightly incremental backups, and, well, I have this site. How cutting edge of me. So, in my personal and my professional lives, I try to keep up with the times, at least where technology is involved.

A couple months ago, I decided to give something else a shot - Second Life. If you don't know anything about Second Life, it's pretty much what it sounds like - a virtual reality in which you reinvent yourself and your life. I know what you're asking - why would you want to build a second life from scratch when you already have a good one going? Answer: I have no fucking idea. But I was curious and, in my line of work, I'd heard a lot about it.

After I decided to check Second Life out, after I'd downloaded and installed the ginormous application necessary (big because, I guess, it was a whole world after all), I was forced to name myself. I have no memory of the name at which I arrived because it assigned some bizarre names based on social status or trade or some shit like that. I felt like I was in some dork's basement playing D&D. Not that I ever did that. Okay, well, there was just that one time but everyone was doing it (um, okay, four guys who couldn't get invited to a sixth grade party) and it's not like I didn't use protection (I had, after all, the Magic-Repellent Cloak of Mordor). Anyway, it felt kinda like that except, after I'd chosen a name and some other random stuff, there I was, on the screen wandering around on some Island of Newbies, trying to get accustomed to my virtual self. Two things became abundantly clear - I needed money and it was going to take me a month to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do.

For the uninitiated, Second Life functions just like reality in that you trade money for services and things. The only thing is? It's real money for fake stuff. Need a new virtual jacket? A toaster to burn fake toast in your fake apartment? A virtual blowjob from a fake hooker? You'll need some cold, hard, real world currency to make those dreams come true. I didn't have any money nor was I sure how I could go about getting money nor was I convinced that this was some lark I wanted to fund with actual cash. So I decided to focus on me for a while and do a little exploring. And what better way to explore than naked?

I'm not sure precisely how I did it but somehow whilst trying to navigate the immense menu of controls and options available to me - an idiot with no idea what I was doing - I managed to free myself from all my clothing. I was naked (virtually, of course) and alone, as if I imagined Second Life Newbie Island to be some sort of virtual nudist colony instead. I became rather less alone when some Second Life Perv Chick named Darla walked up to me and started chatting, apparently oblivious to the fact that I wasn't wearing any clothes. I felt surprisingly vulnerable and embarrassed. I frantically leafed through the multiple menus of clothing options available to me only to realize that Second Life requires one to be very precise about the order and location of the clothing you put on. Darla eventually gave up on me and wandered off to find a less wardrobe-challenged person to chat with. And I couldn't blame her because after she left I noticed that I was wearing underwear on my head and I had no penis. Apparently, Second Life draws the line at realism and that line is around the crotchal region.

It was then, wandering around naked and genderless, that it became clear that keeping up with every trend isn't worth it. Especially one in which you have to build a life from scratch. See, I've done that. It's what I spent the last 36 years doing. I've been successful. I don't need a expensive fake wardrobe with a virtual Beth, Mia and Owen to prove that. I've got the real thing.

Technologically, how do you keep up? And how have you given up?

Posted by Chris at June 23, 2009 6:24 AM

Sounds very confusing :P I think the life you've got for real sounds infinitely better. Heck, even MY life seems fun by comparison heh.

Posted by: Heather at June 23, 2009 6:46 AM

I'm afraid I don't keep up as much as you. I blog, I email for everything, I text message way too much, I have a facebook page but I don't have a blackberry or iphone to be in touch 24/7, it's not required for my job and I figure nobody really needs to talk to me that much. As far as twitter, to be honest I don't get it. I don't get the need to constantly do status updates it seems quite egocentric that anyone should care but color me confused that people do.

I'm a little bit technology a lot old fashioned. I write thank you notes whenever someone buys me a gift or does something nice for me. I like technology but I feel as though a lot of it has gotten in the way of being in touch with our fellow man, although you can get in touch with them every which way possible there is no real connection it seems anymore, not even dating. That has been relegated to online as well and there is no real interaction, if someone doesn't like how photogenic you are, well there is the next page to go too. Lets face it men don't read those bios you painstakingly write out.

I just get that cold feeling when constantly dealing with people outside of face to face.

Posted by: Dee at June 23, 2009 7:12 AM

I have recently decided that technology is a double edged sword...I am personally addicted (FB, Twitter, blogging, email, txting (OMFG)) but it has it's down side too...this is my new struggle.

Posted by: Country Girl at June 23, 2009 7:13 AM

You know, I didn't think I needed a second life but if I could run around NEKKID, it might be worthwhile. :)

Seriously, I don't get it either.

Posted by: Nat at June 23, 2009 7:26 AM

I think you got further than I did in Second Life.

I tend to see stuff as it comes by. But I'll generally wait until I see a second or third mention before looking further. So I was about two weeks late on finding out what Google Wave is.

I'm pretty sure the world kept spinning, though.

Posted by: Hannah at June 23, 2009 7:26 AM

I'm 42 and I operate the same as I did when I was a teenager. On a personal level, I only keep up with those things with which I have an interest (e.g., software and photo equipment). On a professional level, I keep up with the technology that allows me to be worthy of my salary, competitive, and marketable.

Posted by: MariaV at June 23, 2009 7:30 AM

Ugh, Second Life. I tried to join it after someone raved about how great the writing community was, but I couldn't get the client to work under Linux and the support desk were jerks about it ("we won't help you until you log in to Help Island." "but I can't log in to get to Help Island, that's the whole point!"). This one time the Ubuntu forums couldn't help either, although usually they do.

As far as keeping up goes... I read about the new stuff, but I don't always try it, and if I do I don't feel bad about disliking it. Twitter I like. Blogs I like. Facebook I detested.

I figure it's just like setting up your local computer environment: nobody gets to tell you which applications you need. You can try out new ones, but you're going to stick with a slowly-evolving core that you use all the time.

Posted by: Kat at June 23, 2009 7:49 AM

I am with MariaV. I keep up with what I need to for work but personally? I despise Twitter. I have not Twatted yet and don't plan to. Love email and txt.

Try going high tech on your bed. We got a sleep number bed and the soreness disappeared! Seriously, its the best sleep ever.

Posted by: Debbie at June 23, 2009 7:56 AM

I don't get Second Life at all. Not one little bit. I tried it once for a half hour, couldn't get dressed properly, got bored, and uninstalled the thing. Personally I think Second Life is stupid. I've also heard stories about it ruining marriages.

Kind of amazing that technology has brought us to the point of paying real money for a virtual blow job to a pixel-man who doesn't even have a virtual penis.

Posted by: jessica at June 23, 2009 8:00 AM

When getting a new cellphone (not to keep up with anyone but out of necessity), I go straight to the free phones, look for one with decent ratings and order that one. I text - because it's the only way to communicate with my teenagers for some reason - send pics to them/receive pics from them, and once went on my phone's internet, only to ask, "WTF is this?" and exit. I just don't care about the phone I have so long as it makes calls.

Twitter and blogging are cool. Facebook gets boring.

Posted by: Theresa at June 23, 2009 8:18 AM

That is funny... the naked and genderless part.

I like to blog. Blogging is a nice way to journal without all that pesky paper. I read other blogs; most are parenting blogs, as it gives me this weird sense of community. It is nice to know I am not alone or weird or that my kids are not weird, really. We are just kind of normal and operating the way we mostly ought and I get to laugh at the absurdity that children/parenting provides all of us.

I have an iPod that I LOVE and just figured out how to use it. A laptop and a PC and wireless access to that laptop. I have duel screens at work that totally rock BUT seriously that is it.

Which seems like a lot but when you think about the possibilities like roaming naked through Second life or Yoville or whatever virtual weirdness abounds on the Internet or that I could have a Blackberry and an iPhone and Bluetooth and WHO THE HELL COMES UP WITH THESE NAMES ANYWAY??? we are kind of cave like technologically speaking!

I tried Twitter and My Space for all of ten seconds and thought it was lamely stupid and quit. Sorry to all who maintain these things... I just do not get them. I do like Facebook because it has been a super nifty way to reconnect with a ton of people I never thought I would see or hear from again and have loved reconnecting with!

Posted by: Christina at June 23, 2009 8:44 AM

Email, Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter and occasionally I log into MySpace still. Facebook I enjoy because I can keep up with relatives, and my high school class has managed to get enough of us on there so far to create our own group.

Posted by: coolchick at June 23, 2009 8:48 AM

I'm techo savvy enough to keep everything up and running in my house and whoever's house that asks for help.
I have a blog that I don't write in on a regular basis, I have facebook because I like it, I twittered for awhile and then got bored with myself and with some of the people I follow that twitter incessantly but I'm too embarassed to unfollow them. My Samsung Instinct phone allows me to check my email and facebook and twitter and text message back and forth with my son and other family members as needed. I never use it as a phone - I probably use about 25 minutes a month.

Posted by: NancyJ at June 23, 2009 9:09 AM

I've heard of secon life but never felt the need to try it out. I don't have enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to in my First Life!

I usually wait a bit to leap into any of the new techie stuff. Ihave a myspce that I never look at, Facebook, twitter, flickr, a blog....I try to keep up as I have a teenager and want to know what all he's into.

Posted by: Lisa at June 23, 2009 9:46 AM

It seems with my penchant for destroying laptop computers in just over a year I stay on the cutting edge of technology. Never a chance to become too outmoded.
I bought the 3 year extended warranty this time, so I hope to become a little more out of it!

Posted by: Maribeth at June 23, 2009 9:55 AM

I also tried second life for half hour. The land that I was in was full of people wondering around aimlessly and making x-rated sexual comments - because they could. I didn't really understand the point, because I can drive, and it seems easier to take myself to a real restaurant and actually eat food.

I am an early-adopter, and I would buy one of everything (ala Leo) if I had the money.
Not a gamer, so I think that's why the Second Life did appeal to me.

I think, though, that if you have kids, you have to find a way to keep up the pace, because you don't want them to get too far ahead... who knows what SMS and email will be by the time Mia starts asking for a phone.

Posted by: Lisa at June 23, 2009 10:52 AM

Yeah, I think I'm on par with you. I check out new things, but I avoid the time-suckers. I avoided Second Life for that reason.

Basically, if it makes something I already do easier or more fun, then I'm all over it. If it takes away from the things I make time for right now, then it loses.

Posted by: Brad at June 23, 2009 11:13 AM

So, how do you get a virtual blowjob without a real dick to suck? THAT must look pretty funny.

I feel like I don't keep up at all, but solace myself with the fact that I have to say things like "a friend of mine said ___" instead of "I was talking to this guy on-line". Meaning most of the people I'm in touch with are further down the tech food-chain than I.

Posted by: harmzie at June 23, 2009 11:33 AM

I take a lot of grief for practically going out of my way to steer clear of all the pop-culture baloney; I refuse to get accounts on Facebook, MySpace, etc., my cell phone is basically prehistoric and spends most of it's time in the 'off' position, and I generally think new technology is being wasted on pop-culture-y junk instead of focused on bigger-picture stuff. This all makes me very old at 36. I have friends who are something like 80-level wizards or whateverthefuck you can get to be after spending collectively four solid years on World of Warcraft. I just don't get into that stuff and can't understand the point of spending that much time tied to a virtual life when the real one requires so much time and emotional capital.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at June 23, 2009 11:37 AM

I don't get Facebook, MySpace or any of that especially Twitter. Tech savvy is my hubby. He just joined Facebook to keep up with work contacts.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at June 23, 2009 1:27 PM

You're on Facebook? How did I not know this?

Posted by: Angella at June 23, 2009 3:07 PM

I have myspace, facebook, twitter and of course email. I text message and sadly have more pics in my phone of myself than I do my daughters. I have an ipod that saved me on an uber-long bus ride last month. This Second Life business sounds very confusing! But you naked & genderless gave me a giggle, especially w/ underoos on your head ;)

Posted by: Kris at June 23, 2009 3:48 PM

I can't keep up! I'm just barely getting twitter down and yet I still don't understand what RT means? I mean in the REAL world it means something completely different than twitter I'm assuming???

I want to say it means Re-Tweet? But I could be totally off.

I have facebook but just update my photos and What I am doing?

I didn't even attempt MySpace...

LOL@ you being virtually naked... I loved how you twisted that around to make your point. Brillian!

I came over form Tales from the Dadeside.

fun blog!

Posted by: Shelle-BlokThoughts at June 23, 2009 4:08 PM

Right there with you on Second Life.

Posted by: Heather at June 23, 2009 4:36 PM

I have a website, which I have largely built myself. I have a pretty cool camera. I do email, text messaging, facebook. But I draw the line at Twitter. I vehemently refuse to "tweet."

Posted by: Amy at June 23, 2009 8:05 PM