Earlier, I had watched a Dr. Phil episode. I don't normally watch, but today's was about a young guy who had a gaming addiction (looked like Call of Duty despite the blurring). It started out with Dr Phil in Second Life, custom avatar and all. I braced myself for the usual negativity, but Dr. Phil seemed to be enjoying himself, exploring, flying, trying new things. SL was featured only in the beginning and an end segment, where Linden Labs CEO Ebbe Altberg was talking about its positive benefits. Dr. Phil himself never condemned SL or video games, only the addictive behaviors that sometimes result.
Many of us have been there. When I first came to SL in 2007, I was reeling from my mom having cancer. It was a place of quiet for me in a way. I wanted to explore and build and be left alone. Then I found the Steamlands communities. I lost a job and then really got kind of sucked in. In hindsight, I was depressed and probably spent way more time inworld then than I would remotely be comfortable with now. It was an escape. Between the birth of my son in 2011 and a glitchy computer, I was away for years and came in very infrequently for special events and to talk to friends. Last year, I returned, promising myself the following: No obligations. NONE. No building. No designing. No nothing to keep me inworld. Just enjoy and slip in and out at will.
I have found a balance now in my real life and my digital one. I didn't feel the need for the type of validation that being inworld can be so seductive in providing. I have seen it so many times: how one's avatar seems more authoritative, more popular, more beautiful, more accomplished. How for some, they crave the attention. For me, I know that SL had inspired me to go to grad school. I even put it on my admissions essay. SL inspired my creativity. That it could be a place of healing and discovery. That I have made great, interesting, intelligent friends that I count among my RL ones. That if it all went away tomorrow, I have had an incredible, unforgettable experience within it.
There's a very important thing to remember as our digital lives become more evolved: It is a complement to your real life. How will you make it work for yours?