Many people keep their activities in Second Life a secret from their surroundings, their RL friends and family often have no idea they are even involved in Second Life.
They do this because they don’t want everyone to know what they get up to in this virtual world, because they feel embarrassed to spend so much time with something others may not understand or because of the bad reputation Second Life has.
This is one of the reasons why the reactions towards the new Second Life Facebook integration have in many cases been less then enthusiastic.
Of course, if you want to keep your Second Life secret, that is your business.
But I think that at least in some cases we should perhaps consider coming out of the virtual closet.
One of SL’s (many) problems is its reputation.
The world knows SL as that weird old place that they thought vanished years ago and that was full of weirdos doing kinky hanky panky stuff with their avatars, flying unmentionables and people spending real money so their avatars can look like barbie while in RL they are fat old men.
And of course, part of Second Life is exactly that and we will probably never get rid of those stories.
But everyone who has been in SL for longer than a few hours knows that there is so much more to SL than just that.
Or SL is that virtual world with 1997 graphics and so much lag you can’t move, all you hear is people screaming obscenities in their microphone while in the background their dogs bark and children cry.
Not to mention the griefers who are hiding behind every corner harassing you or trying to talk you into doing something dirty with a poseball.
If we want SL’s reputation to change, to become even a little more balanced, we have to do our bit.
Linden Lab is not always good at defending Second Life or improving its image.
The press uses 1997 screenshots with their articles and the second you enter Second Life you will very likely be confronted with naughty people, dirty pictures and language that will make you want to wash people’s mouths out with carbolic soap.
So if you, like me, care about Second Life’s reputation and want to see it improved or if you just want to share your adventures and enthousiasm with friends and family without them all thinking you’re spending too much time in loony pervy world, it is time to do something.
There are a few small steps, for instance, if you read somewhere about Second Life on the internet and think that the article is unfair, unbalanced or outdated, respond.
Even if it is just to confront the journalist about using 5 year old screenshots!
But perhaps the best thing you can do is ‘coming out of the virtual closet’.
When friends and family think that Second Life is a horrible place where only very weird things happen, educate them.
When I re-discovered Second Life, I pretty soon got so enthousiastic that I wanted my friends and family to understand it, to see the fun I was having.
I didn’t want to hide something that gave me so much joy from the people I care about the most.
But I also felt that quite a few people would actually love SL as much as I do, if only they gave it a try.
So I started posting screenshots of some of the most amazing things I had seen in SL.
I posted them on facebook and yes of course, the second I mentioned SL I got the old “does that still excist”, “ewwww its a pervy places for weirdos”. etc.
So I proved them wrong, I showed them the other side.
I posted pictures of stunning sims, talked about educational places, watching vintage movies with friends from all over the world, etc, etc.
As I am a history nut, sp I started sharing a lot of stuff about historical sims on facebook, especially when I started to build one myself.
Most of my friends are mad about history as well and seeing that SL would allow them to explore 1920s Berlin, the First World War Trenches or a Roman villa made them curious.
Some tried SL and a few of those are now lost for ever in the virtual streets and alleyways.
But all of my contacts now at least know that SL is not what they thought it was.
Of course many of us have things we don’t want to share with the world, visiting the Latex whipped cream sailor dungeon may be your cup of tea but our aunty might not quite understand seeing that pop up on your facebook account.
Most of us however also spend at least some time in sims that look stunning or at places where something happens that does not fit in with the negative reputation SL has.
So do your bit for SL’s reputation; come out of the virtual closet!
Post a stunning snapshot of a wonderful sim on your RL facebook account, write about a class you’ve been to or something arty, intellectual or fun that you’ve experienced thanks to SL.
Share one of those excellent Drax files videos;
Tell them how you’ve walked inside a Vincent van Gogh Painting, how you’ve visited a building that was demolished centuries ago, talk about poetry, movies or how you just had a great time listening to some live Irish music in a pub when you couldn’t go out in RL because your car was broken.
Be prepared for negative comments and set those people straight.
YES, SL is a weird place where weir people do weird things.
But there is more to it.
I know that there are people who don’t want to try SL because of that bad reputation, some don’t want to return to SL because they experienced that side of SL.
We will not change everyone’s mind, but we can at least make some people realise that SL is more than its reputation.