Stepping into character

character.jpg

So who are you really inside Second Life? This question has puzzled me for a long time, and now that I’m doing an article on SL couples, all the conversations I have make me think about it more than before. What makes it tricky is the topic of love. What do ”I love you” mean inside SL?

People have given me different answers. Some say they do feel RL love towards the person behind the other avatar. Others say they look at it from an in-world perspective only. It’s their avatars that are in love. Not the people behind the avatar. How easy is it to separate the two?

One of my best friends in-world is Cake Kidd. She’s also partnered with Sasha, and I talked to them about their relationship. The discussion continued after Sasha had to leave, with Kaeria Repine also present.

Cake said to me: ”You know about SL feelings, I’m sure …” I answered: ”I’m not sure.” And that’s true. Cause I don’t really know what SL feelings are. Are they the feelings that I, Therese Carfagno, have? Or are they the feelings that she who writes what I say have?

This is quickly getting confusing. Are you still here? Fine. Most of my time in SL, I’ve switched from feeling like a character in a book that’s constantly being written, and identifying myself with the girl who writes it. But I think we should be two different persons. That’s what I mean with stepping into character.

I’ve studied literature. There, I learned about the different levels in a story. The first level is the historical author: Charles Dickens living in London and writing David Copperfield between 1848 and 1850. The next level is the person that tells the story. The author. The one that writes. Then, as in David Copperfield, you might have a person inside the story that tells it. David Copperfield telling his story about his life.

Confusing? To simplify: Charles Dickens wasn’t David Copperfield. But he wrote the story so it would seem like David was a real human being capabable of telling his story. When David says ”I’m in love,” that’s he talking, and not Dickens.

Same with me. I’m like David Copperfield. My writer, whom I share my first name with, is Charles Dickens, my author.

”But wait,” you might say. ”You said you had studied literature, but isn’t it your author who’s done that?” Hm, yes. True. But luckily, she lets me borrow parts of her biography, so that I’m not gonna be a completely blank person who was born less than a year ago. That’s why we’re similar on many areas, and share lots of experiences. So I can say I’ve studied literature. And if you meet me and I say I’ve just been to a concert, it might be that my author has been to exactly the same concert.

Cake asked me how I can split from my author. ”The mind and the personality of the person behind the keyboard always comes through.” I agree on that. And I’m not very different from my author.

Cake added: ”It might even be the other way around. I think some people are more themselves [in SL] than they are in RL.” I can only agree on that too. I know I do a lot of things that my author would like to do. I’m in many ways someone my author would like to be. I can be a whole lot braver, for example, and act out secret desires. Oh, and change my hairstyle more often too.

So who are you inside Second Life? The same as in real life? Someone completely different? I’d love to hear what other avatars think about the relationship between themselves and their authors. How are you connected (if you are connected at all)? Please leave a comment.

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~ by theresecarfagno on November 4, 2007.

7 Responses to “Stepping into character”

  1. Second Life is powerful because it allows us (if we so choose) to play out our sub-personalities. Is Caterin the same as her RL person? Yes and No. She is an aspect of a RL person (and let’s drop this ‘Real Life’ nonsense, ‘First Life’ is much more accurate) but not ALL of that person. I’d say it is next to impossible for someone to 100% disassociate their SL avi from their First Life person…

    An interesting topic Tess!

  2. What I have noticed is that Apmel, who is much younger than his “author”, repeats the same mistakes in relationships that I, the author speaking now, did in my youth.

    This IS interesting!!

  3. Cat: How boring that we agree so much ;-) And let’s march forward with our ‘First Life’ campaign. FLN – First Life Now lol.

    Apmel: Too true! I’ve made a lot of the same mistakes as FL Therese as well. Plus some.

  4. This topic never ceases to fascinate me, Tess. As far as I’m concerned, not enough has been written about it yet. Too many stories and documentaries about Second Life are about its economy.

    First-life me created Veronique as an alter ego. I thought of her as being a character in a story that was continually being written, as you have described. That was before I/her (talk about confusing) fell in love, which for me was in some weird grey area between first and second life. Once I truly started to interact with people, both with my partner and with friends, I realized that I couldn’t be quite as detached from V as I’d originally intended.

    So Veronique is me in so many ways. And even though SL is a place for fantasy and adventures, I have to be responsible for her actions. There are real people behind all those avatars, and if I insult or hurt someone in SL — and it’s not a role play we both agree to — then I must take responsibility for that.

    Man, I’ve blogged about this more than once, and it’s still not easy to figure out, as you can see!

  5. I’m still confused, Veronique ;-) Well, I know what I mean, but I still tend to talk to people thinking they expect the avatar and the person behind it to be the same person.

    That’s because I too, like you, think that I have to be responsible so not to hurt people. “Love” is a word I will be very reluctant to use, for example.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts – most useful.

  6. Here’s another perspective. In the physical world, I am already many different persons, and I keep altering the way I want to appear to myself and others. During any given moment in the physical world, I might be a flirt, a political activist, a grieving spouse, an impassioned lover, an author, a hacker. Sometimes I’m a guy sitting in a movie theater believing for a few moments that I’m observing a battle between two alien races, and sometimes I’m a guy sitting at my PC struggling with questions about his RL and SL selves.

    When I’m in a virtual world like SL, I can choose to be any or all of these selves from time to time. And, I can easily take on even more identities: I can be a knight, a cat, a slave, a fashionista, a ballroom dancer, a demon, a woman.

    In other words, I’m simply a conscious living being, passing the time between my birth and my death. And in doing so, I’m using my mind and my surroundings (in RL and SL) to interact with other beings who are doing exactly the same thing.

  7. Hi Jerry. Thanks for the comment. What can I say? I agree with you on all points.

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