In 2010, some seven years after the virtual world Second Life (SL) was launched, director Jason Spingarn-Koff set off into this wild digital world and made the documentary Life 2.0 – charting the lives of people who participation in SL radically changed their real life circumstances.
In one of these instances, a man (herein referred to as ‘John’; his real name was omitted in the documentary) created a female child avatar, Ayya Aabye, in SL and became fixated with the character for some 6 months. He would often clock over 10 hours daily on Second Life, disrupting his daily life and relationship with his fiancée.
Even though John ultimately deleted his avatar, it was too little too late and his engagement crumbled.
Though, the direct cause of their relationship cannot be directly attributed solely to Man’s obsession with SL, it certainly exacerbated existing issues.
Yet in the aftermath of his breakup, John headed back into SL and create a brand new avatar and began immersing once more into the digital sandbox world – claiming that he would “be in virtual worlds forever, that there would nothing that would keep (him) out of them”.
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It is fascinating to see how one’s real life can become so intertwined with a constructed online/digital life. The lines between the two become blurred and feed into one another, sometimes consuming the other almost wholly.
In the documentary, John would often refer to his avatar by its name and in third person, while acknowledging that they are in ways one and the same. While leading double lives and assuming new identities is nothing new, the ease and expansiveness in which one can undertake such endeavour has never been so prominent.
The ability for the Internet to connect these individuals in a single, almost anonymous platform, to role play together is also another important component in this phenomenon. Participants often speak of the community and connectedness they experience in SL; friendships made online are as authentic (if not more so) as friendships made in real life.
As technology advances even further, we can expect increasingly immersive digital worlds in which we inhabit and “live” in. How this will fracture or enhance interpersonal relationships is anyone’s guess. But life – real, digital or otherwise, as we know it, would certainly never be the same again.