slum magazine

“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval

When Avatars Disappear

By Cat Boccaccio.

chairs on dock

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.
Judy Holliday

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.
-Joseph Roux

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


About slummagazine

slum magazine is about all things Second Life: art, music, news, reviews, shopping, love and life.

8 comments on “When Avatars Disappear

  1. SaveMe Oh
    October 22, 2013

    What’s his name?


  2. Kylie Addison Sabra
    October 22, 2013

    My husband has instructions to notify my friend list when I reach my expiration date. It’s awful when someone just disappears.


    • slummagazine
      October 23, 2013

      Good for you. That was the point of the article.. we all need to make little plans, it’s cruel otherwise. Because SL friends are real. 🙂



  3. Pingback: When Avatars Disappear -Cat Boccaccio | News of...

  4. the dune mouse
    November 2, 2013

    interesting article, I recently popped back into SL after a very long absence. Only 2 friends of the many I had there had kept in touch, mainly because they also decided to focus on their real lives. It was with one of them that I logged back in. I have very mixed feelings about the virtual worlds after spending a couple of years there. Some aspects I found disturbing, some I found very entertaining. I guess it was how you can get sucked into it or even addicted to it that was fascinating and terrible. I did become a bit disillusioned or perhaps just tired of the charade after a time. Role playing can do that to you lol.!! It was always a fine line!! You can read about my experience on my blog. I still appreciate the art and imagination that many bring to the virtual. However, don’t let the pixels fool you. We are all figments of each other ‘s imagination in this illusion within the illusion of life 🙂 But let’s not waste too much precious time.


    • the dune mouse
      November 2, 2013

      PS I do understand that emotions with virtual friends there are still real emotions but often don’t cross over into the real world.


  5. Edward Casey
    January 14, 2014

    I was Insight Homewood in SL. I left suddenly; it was not intentional. My life took a downward spiral, homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness. I had a premium account that went overdue. I was on the streets for a long time, then got help. Now, with my account closed, I have a new account. If anyone here recognizes my old account name and wondered what happened and wants to know my new account name (free, this one, for a time, hopefully), do leave a comment.


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This entry was posted on October 22, 2013 by in Original slum Content, SL Life & Love and tagged , , , , .


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