In the first few chapters of his book, Coming of Age in Second Life, Boellstorff argues that life lived through a computer is no less real than an offline life, and so we shouldn’t distinguish between ‘real life’ and ‘virtual life’. Instead, he thinks we should say that ‘real life’ is made up of our ‘actual lives’ and our ‘virtual lives’. Boellstorff expresses the idea that living life in Second Life is just as good as in our ‘First Life‘
One can build a house, shop for clothes, meet new people, even get married in Second Life just like you can without Second Life! How cool is that? With all the versatility of Second Life, it must be at least as awesome as actual life, but you can also fly.
The issue with saying that virtual life is just as good as actual life is that it really isn’t true.
Anyone who said they valued their virtual life as much as their actual life is either crazy or didn’t think that through very thoroughly. Would you really spend the time to build your avatar a house if you didn’t have your own home to live in? Would you really buy your avatar food if you hadn’t eaten in two days?
You need to live your actual life to be able to live in your virtual life, but not the converse. One can thrive in their actual life without even having a virtual life. In this article from the Art of Manliness Blog, which we’ve discussed before on the Cool Math Blog, it is argued that learning how to unplug ourselves from the electronic devices that take up so much of our attention can help us thrive in our actual lives. Becoming a basement dweller can only help your avatar live, but being a well-rounded human being can help both you and your avatar.
Does Second Life need to go away forever? No, but we need to see it for what it is-a fake life– a distraction from our actual lives in the real world. If we can use Second Life as a way to keep in touch with our friends and family who live far away or to promote our business or even just as a game to entertain us, we can still thrive and make the real world a better place.