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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Life, Really?

In a recent episode of The Office, Dwight Schrute begins playing a computer game called Second Life as a way to escape the pain he suffers from a recent breakup. As his pain intensifies, he enters a second Second Life created for, as co-worker Jim Halpert explains, "those people who want to be removed even further from reality." While I understand the need to temporarily escape from the chaos of our world, new features and additions to Second Life have taken that escape to an unhealthy, scary level.

CNN recently announced its decision to place an I-Report Hub in Second Life, allowing residents of Second Life to send in online reports about incidents happening in their virtual worlds. Such additions to the game have moved the virtual world of Second Life closer and closer to an exact replica of reality, which makes it harder to distinguish between the two worlds. An article on said that the network hoped to "encourag[e] residents of Second Life to share their own 'SL I-Reports' about events occurring within the virtual world." This would mean that Second Life residents could receive updates on events in their virtual lives on a daily basis.

It seems that residents of Second Life are not just temporarily escaping from their lives, but have begun a permanent move from their real world to the virtual. Second Life creator Philip Rosedale himself said that he hoped the computer game could someday replace reality: "We are in competition with real world....We are competing to create a better place for your mind to live."

Virtual lives detach people from their real world, and they then begin to put less effort into their jobs, relationships and world issues. In encouraging residents to become more involved and interested in their virtual lives, attention is diverted away from real world issues. It is frightening to think that a Second Life resident may be reading CNN's I-Reports on what's new in a fake world more than they read CNN's real-world news site on what's new in reality.

I have yet to meet a Second Life resident, but currently, over six million people are residents of Second Life, and the British research company Gartner Inc. predicts that by the year 2011, 80 percent of Internet users will have virtual lives. More people entering virtual worlds means more people becoming uninterested in real life, which means less contributions to society as a whole.

Second Life not only makes people less interested in the real world and society, it makes them less interested in their own personal lives. An article published by British paper the Telegraph uses Second Life resident Ric Hooegestraat as an example of someone who found love in his virtual life. He was attracted to a "tall,slim redhead" that he encountered in his Second Life, began a relationship and is now virtually married to her. While the marriage is not official, it affected his real life, specifically his relationship with his real wife.

"It's devastating," Sue Hooegestraat told the Telegraph. "You try to talk to someone or bring them a drink and they'll be having sex with a cartoon."

Instead of actually working on their life's problems, Second Life residents hide in their virtual worlds, comforting their pain by engrossing themselves in a virtual version of a life they have always wanted. People are not actually adressing any issues, they are just ignoring them. In diverting people's time and energy to the virtual world, Second Life deprives society of contributions that these gamers would have otherwise made.

Second Life has become another way for people to turn their attention away from real issues occurring in our world and from their real lives. What seemed like an innocent computer game deludes people into considering a fake world to be a real one, thus making them more interested in working on their relationships and jobs in their new "reality."

While advocates of virtual worlds claim that they allow people to live their dreams, the negatives far outweigh the so-called positives. If you desperately need a break from your world, read a book. Go to the movies. Take a spa day. Creating a virtual identity and hiding in that life will not solve anything in the end. Living the life you 'always wanted' through a computer screen will not solve anything in the end. Because guess what? None of it is real.