Sunday, 26 August 2007

"Virtual Reality" published August 26

I had just managed to change my shirt from purple to blue, make my hair blonde and change my pants from jeans to black when a friend rang suggesting we catch up for a drink in an hour.
I was hoping that in an hour I would have removed my blue shirt and my black pants and would be having sex, but that’s the great thing about the internet I could log out and do it later.
I am one of nearly 9 million registered members of a virtual colony called Second Life. I signed up because I read about it in Time magazine and I couldn’t quite believe anyone would seriously want to exist in a virtual world, buy land, build houses, go shopping or have sex. Pretty soon I was an “avatar” and while my co-“avatars” had names like “Echo” and “Wind.” I opted for a more Kiwi approach and called myself “Kauri.
My first session lasted four hours by which time I had managed to change my clothes so that I didn’t look like Paris Hilton, conversed with several other Second Lifers who were all new too and just having a look around (although one woman was practicing yoga and hid behind a tree when I said hi). Another man dressed in black sat on me, well virtually, and I got scared. Sitting at my laptop on a Sunday afternoon a man who doesn’t exist scared me shitless and I felt certain he was going to virtually rape me. So I flew away and landed at the bottom of the sea. But I didn’t drown I just walked out dry as a bone and fresh as a daisy, no blow dry needed.
It was about this time that my husband wandered in to see what I had just bought on Trade Me, that being the only other reason I would sit at my computer for hours without moving. I asked him if he’d mind if I had Second Life sex for research purposes. Call me old fashioned but I just had to see how you did it. The words “virtual” and “orgasm” were weighing heavily on my believability register. He wasn’t keen but did suggest that he could enter Second Life too and we could have virtual sex with each other. “Kauri” meets “Rubber Plant”, how sweet. He’s always been quick on his feet when it comes to problem solving, damn him.
The trend to live your life in your computer is something I have been battling to prevent others from doing for several months now. Friends send me emails saying they’ve signed me up for Facebook so instead of emailing, phoning or actually physically seeing me they can send messages from a website which seems to provide little else than a virtual community of like minded knob heads.
Why are we all avoiding real life?
Because in real life we are fat, and in cyberspace we can be thin. In real life we might not be as charming and witty as we would want to, but in cyberspace we have the time to think up the lines before we tap them out. I no longer visit Second Life, simply because things took forever to do and the Second Life community would often freeze while it caught up with my commands, which is probably more Telecom’s appalling broadband delivery problem than theirs. I just couldn’t face the thought of having sex and freezing at the wrong moment. It might send the wrong signal.
And I just couldn’t get my hair right. It insisted on looking like a dish mop after a big load of dishes, and quite frankly my hair looks like that in real life, so I wasn’t about to put up with it in virtual land.
Perhaps our computer is safer for many people. If you make a mistake, like landing in the ocean, then you’ll survive. You will always have something to do and people to meet who won’t judge you because you have a wart on your nose, big hips or a small dick. And at the end of day with your computer keyboard you will have had some emotional interaction of some kind. You may have been scared like I was, or you may have been loved, appreciated, listened to or played with.
Pretty soon you’d forget the joy of reading a good book, walking in the sun and meeting a friend for a glass of wine in an hour.

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