“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By Cat Boccaccio.
It’s a fact of Second Life that people leave. I am sure you know several people who have left for the adventures that the “real” world has to offer. They may no longer have the time, or the heart for Second Life. Or are bored, angry or hurt in some way. Or their commitments now focus on their RL family, health, or job.
These good people say their goodbyes, and as with friends you’ve met on a journey, you promise to keep in touch. To email, or text, because you are good friends after all. Sometimes the friendship does continue to grow after they leave us; sometimes we realize that Second Life was what we had in common, and drift apart.
Lovers have a right to betray you… friends don’t.
But what if someone just disappears? One day you are chatting and exploring together, the next day there is nothing… and the next week and the next month. There is no message; the account profile still exists in all its giddy humor– you know because you check it almost daily. You talk endlessly with mutual friends, all of you looking for clues. But there was no warning, no talk of health, or RL demands, or unhappiness with Second Life. Unless your friendship stretched into the real world, they have effectively vanished from the face of the earth.
Many of my Second Life friendships are powerful, just as in “real” life. The difference in RL is their physical presence, of course. They rarely disappear without a trace, like in an overwrought TV drama. If they don’t call, or don’t answer our calls, we can check on them and make sure that all is well. If they are ill or sad, we can support and comfort them. If the worst happens, we can mourn them.
We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.
Why would a friend just leave us with no explanation? They cared about us too; they wouldn’t leave us wondering and worrying, would they? Why? Of course the reasoning that won’t go away is that they are injured or sick or in sudden crisis. Or worse. When an avatar disappears in Second Life, it may well become an overwrought drama. It is a heart-wrenching, helpless agony when someone you care about disappears. You desperately want information, an answer: closure.
Do you know what it feels like to be left behind?
So, what can we do? First of all, we can make sure that we ourselves never disappear without a trace. We can demonstrate a little empathy, no matter how dire we feel our situation is. If it is at all possible, we let our friends know what has happened; or tell, however briefly, just one Second Life friend the reason for our leaving, sparing those we care about the pain of not knowing what happened, and imagining the worst.
What if we are in an accident, or have a heart attack, or enter a witness protection plan? We need to plan for the unexpected. If I was struck down and unable to explain my absence to dear friends in Second Life, I have a plan. A close RL connection will tell my best friend in Second Life, who can explain to others. The news may not be good, but I know from experience it is better to know.
Instead of loving your enemies — treat your friends a little better.
-E. W. Howe