I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. Our personalities and feelings are what make SL the fun that it is. If we suddenly removed our emotions from the equation it would be a very boring place indeed. It takes human intervention to play jokes on each other, make role play come to life, build friendships or create amazing virtual content to wear, look at, explore and interact with. But it is true that our emotions in a virtual world can lead to sadness, even tragedy.
Let me share a story with you about a dear SL friend of mine; I’ll call her Fiona. She was a popular, friendly and fun person. In SL she enjoyed socialising, dancing and fashion. OMG how she loved her clothes and hair styles! In real life Fiona was single, had been divorced for about 4 years and worked in a demanding profession.
Although Fiona was a little lonely in real life she was not looking for ‘love’ online. She just enjoyed meeting people from many different countries and made a lot of friends. After about a year in-world she met Tony who happened to live only 200 miles from her. Tony and Fiona formed a close friendship and, over time, shared more about their real lives. It turned out that Tony, who was also professionally employed, was single and had never found ‘Mrs Right’ because he’d dedicated so much time to his career.
The more time Fiona and Tony spent together the closer they became. She was so happy. He was funny, caring, generous and supportive. She felt herself falling for him and they gradually shifted from being friends to something more amorous. Then, after several months, Tony asked to meet with Fiona in real life. She was ecstatic!
Only 3 weeks later, things had taken a turn for the worse. Fiona’s catch up with Tony hadn’t eventuated; in fact he was rarely in Second Life these days. He was also avoiding her calls and sending very brief responses to her texts. When he was around Tony was uncharacteristically distant, less attentive. Fiona queried him several times about what was wrong but he claimed he was just busy at work. She was baffled, knowing there was more to it but unable to get him to open up.
Then Tony cut off all contact and Fiona became genuinely distressed. What had happened? Had he found someone else? Was he ill or worse? What had she done wrong? After a few days she sent a text asking if he was ok. His reply was, “Leave me the f*** alone!” Wisely, after wiping the many tears from her eyes, Fiona did just that.
A week or two later who should suddenly appear in SL but Tony. He talked briefly and the truth came out. It seems ‘single’ Tony really had a wife and 3 children. His marriage was not a happy one and he’d been planning to leave his wife but, before he had the chance to initiate a separation, she had left him for another man. Not only that, she'd departed without the children! He admitted he had not been a good husband and his wife had never met the ‘perfect man’ he portrayed in SL. So Tony was now busy trying to pull together the tatters of his real life – a life that Fiona had no place in.
Why did Tony come clean at last? Who knows? Maybe he wanted to get things off his chest or perhaps he was so self absorbed that he actually expected sympathy?
To Fiona’s credit, with all the pride she could muster, she told Tony his wife was to be congratulated for freeing herself of him at last and she added that she was happy to be rid of him too, now that she knew the truth. She wished Tony luck in raising his 3 children alone.
Tony’s response? Nothing - he logged off and has never been seen in Second Life since – not in that avatar name, anyway. And what of Fiona? She stayed in SL for a while but never really recovered from the experience. I've not seen her in-world for several months...sigh.
What’s the moral of this tale? Please take care of your heart in Second Life. Even those you feel you trust can mess with it. There are certainly cases of people having found true love in SL but unfortunately they are the exceptions, rather than the rule. Your emotions in a virtual world can lead you astray, especially when things are not what you think they are!