Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is It Love?

There's a little discussion going on on a forum I frequent. Now the beginning of it was simple enough. Are there good men in SL? But it has ended up being a "How can you call it love if it's just a game?" debate.

Personally, I think of SL as being more than just some game. It's many different things to many different people. But I absolutely believe that you can love someone that you meet in SL, whether it's romantic love or friendship love.

One girl [she sounds extremely young, so we'll not call her a woman] stated that love in SL is not real and ask any "therpist" and they'd tell you the same.


What makes SL love any different than any other kind of love? I have online friends that I've known for a number of years that I've never met, and possibly never will meet, but that doesn't make my love for them any different than the love I have for my family that I never see. We share secrets, dreams, our daily lives. I love them as if they were my family. I am growing to love my SL friends very much. They're the ones who let me fill their IM boxes with nonsense and with problems. They're the ones who make me smile when I think about them. How is that love not real?

Most of my "real" world friends are married or in committed relationships. Most of them are unhappy. A few have told me that they're no longer in love with their significant others. Why is that better than loving someone online? Just because you can touch someone physically doesn't mean that it's any better!

We are living in a world where online friendships and relationships are very common. I truly believe that for some people, without the aid of technology, they would go throughout life not speaking to anyone if they didn't have to. There are people who are so shy they can barely say hello to the checker at the grocery store. There are people who cannot leave their home because they are scared, or disabled. But with things like chat rooms or SL, they have lives. They have learned to love people. They have learned to interact and talk to others. I know that my daily life has changed because of SL because I have learned that it's ok that I speak to others.

Confession time. I'm exceptionally shy. I know, chatterbox me. :-p I have real world friends, but trust me, it is more their doing that we are friends than mine. I'm incredibly lucky to have them. But since coming to SL, when I go out somewhere now, I smile at people. I talk to them. In fact, if you get me going now, I don't shut up.

[Really, Ali? We never would have guessed.]
[Oh, you guys be quiet. LOL]

I guess what I'm getting at is that love, whether first life or second, is real if you believe it is. The love I hold for my friends is absolutely and most definitely real. And how can that be a bad thing?

As far as romantic love goes - Do people really fall in love in SL? Of course they do. Heck, it may be even better than falling in love with someone you meet in a smoky bar when you're drunk on cheap beer.

I'd love to hear more opinions on this, good or bad. :)


WillowC said...

Love is an emotion, a non-tangible entity that we have yet to fully explain, we don't even know what it's made of. Why on earth would it rely on anything tangible to exist? Love is a virtual bond between two people, not a physical one. I agree with you completely Alicia, course it exists :)))

♥ JellyBean Madison ♥ said...

Oi! Pick me! Pick me! I fell in love in SL. Okay I fell in love twice in SL but this last one, it's real. Ask anyone who knows Hawks & I and they will tell you that we most def have one unsinkable love. <3

I think there's a different level when meeting online. You get to know the deeper side to a person before the physical. In the end you just have to hope the two mesh and that the sparks carry over, but it's so possible. :)

Anonymous said...

I never believed in the faerie tale textbook definition of love when it came to anonymous people, mainly because as soon as one person finds out what the other looks like; they usually either have such high expectations of what they look like, or they just flat out just don't like what the person looks like. There are times where yes, they person can look better than what you imagine or exactly what you imagine but let's face it, it doesn't happen very often. While I do believe you can find love in SL among frienships and partnerships, but enough to actually feel like this person is your soulmate? Highly unlikely. And that's exactly why most relationships online fail, and not just in SL. I'm not saying you have to meet them face to face to love them, but I am saying that most people after being in romantic love long enough, and the strain of not getting to reach out and touch them let alone not even knowing what they look like, will feel they will have to. There are exceptions, there are always exceptions, but sadly enough, they're not as abundant enough to change the picture

Calaya Criss said...

oh my the anonymous post =o. i'll get to that in a minute :P...

I was married once before and it didn't last most rl marriages i think because it was based on physical stuff, and things end up movin fast, I'm in a relationship right now and I am so in love, more than I think I have ever been, if I ever was in love to begin with, Online you get to know someone for who they are inside and on a deeper level because it's easier to open up. and if you are really in love when it comes time to meet it doesn't matter what they look like because this person makes you so happy that you couldn't possibly be with anyone else. I know so many people who have found real love on sl, that took it into rl and are so happy now. as opposed to the ones in rl, i believe these relationships last much longer if not forever, and i don't believe you can have sl love and just keep it in sl or play around, because then it really is a game, and people get hurt, I knew a girl once that did this and soon as the guy would wanna take it further she'd dump him...SIGH anonymous is right about the meeting thing and how it wont work out because of dissapointments, it is so true, if you're not really in love. ok i wrote a lot and i still have so much more to say but :P i'll end it with this : =)))!

Anonymous said...

About 6 years ago, in an online community very much like SL, I found my true love. We just started talking one day and then looked forward to seeing each other online more and more. Eventually we progressed to emails and phone calls, exchanging photos, etc. A year and a half later he flew from Australia to Chicago to met me in person. Since we were honest with each other, meeting in RL was not like meeting a stranger, but my love who I had been apart from for too long. Six months later we were married and living in Australia, where, I'm happy to say, we still are and will soon be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary.
If you arent honest and pretend to be someone you're not, you cant expect any relationship to succeed, in RL or SL. It used to bug me a lot when people would call SL a game when really it's a community. There's real people behind every avatar, with real feelings and emotions. There are people that roleplay, and that's ok too, if it's with other people that are roleplaying. However when someone is pretending and the other person is not, it only leads to broken hearts and bad experiences. Be yourself and let your true personality shine. :)

Sidonie said...

i'm going to meander a bit, so be advised,

I think that Sl and other online connections before it both show us how far we have to go (some of us) in terms of focusing ONLY on sex or ONLY on the physical attractiveness of a potential love or companion AND shows us how advanced we are in terms of that.

There's an interesting article on another blog about how sometimes knowing how a person "really" sounds or "Really" looks can be jarring or disorienting. The writer says that over time, she has a picture, or a minds eye view of her friends and how they look and sound. I think when an avatar is also involved with that visual representation, this kind of thing is probably even more prevalent.

Getting to your question, yes, I think most certainly you can love someone over the internet, very very dearly indeed. I think that SL love can be very valid.

BUT, I don't think it ALWAYS is. Many people get together and break up very quickly, a few weeks or a month and then its on to the next boy or girl. I have theories as to why this grazing style happens online but in a nutshell it happens over a longer span irl, as witness the number of divorces on the rise. Being online and talking as we do tends to compress or make more intense the relationships that we have but it does nothing to necessarily make them last.

As for taking an online or SL relationship to real life - I think it's possible but aside from the necessary safety precautions when meeting a stranger in a strange city - I do think honesty about each of your real bodies, real faces, real voices, real circumstances is a key component for things to progress beyond online

Anonymous said...

My original post gotten eaten so I'll start again.

I have mainly experience with people who have met online but not in SL (as I am new to SL). I know of about 6 couples who have met online and are currently part of an online community I'm involved with. Of those couples 1 is broken up but the rest are currently married or living together. 1 couple actually lived in the same town and didn't know each other! The other met through IRC chat first.

I think that the couples I knw how met online have just as much chance at happiness and being together as those who met in person first. SL is a little different since it's a virtual world.

Anonymous said...

Yes the love is real. The people are real.

Udge said...

Ask any poet from any country and century, and they'll tell you that love is all in the head. SL love is as real, and as fraught and as painful, as any other kind, because (unless you're a real idiot) what you love is the personality, not the pixels.

M said...

I wanted to reply to this the other day and I caught distracted with other things and never got back to it. But I was thinking about this earlier and decided that it's better late than never!

I do believe that love online is real and valid. When you are dealing with relationships online - be they friendships or romances - you don't necessarily have the supplement of physical contact that many "real life" relationships do. So your relationships online are fueled almost exclusively by the processes of your head and your heart.

Because our hearts and our minds work at a faster pace than our bodies, relationships online develop at an expedient rate: days feel like weeks, months feel like years. These relationships are more intense at times as well, being driven by pure thought and intention. It's true that many online relationships last no more than a few weeks, or months. This is not because they are any less valid than a "real life" relationship, but more because online relationships simply progress faster than those in the physical world.

I don't know why exactly this is the case, though I have my own theories. Based on my own experiences with online love and romance, I think it has to do with the lack of a physical barrier to expression. I think we are able to express ourselves with less restriction than we would if we were physically in the same room as the person we are woo'ing (or being woo'ed by.) When online I am not worrying about the physical world - if my appearance looks good, if my body language is sending the right message, if I am reading his body language correctly, if the setting is right, if my seat is uncomfortable, etc. Those physical distractions are removed, so that all we have to focus on is translating our thoughts and feelings into words on a screen.

And that's something else - words on a screen. Text can be reviewed. It can be read, and re-read, dissected, interpreted, mulled over, archived. The same applies for screengrabs. When the relationship is textual in some form, or if you snap screenshots of you and your paramour, you create an instant history of the relationship that can be reviewed after the fact; in other words you can re-live your own experience with something more tangible than a memory. That is a powerful thing - having the luxury to instantly re-live an experience you might have just had, without having to rely solely on your memory to do so.

Jellybean mentioned too that when you interact with someone online you get to know the "deeper side" to a person before you become familiar with the physical side. Though some might make the argument that this isn't necessarily so because the anonymity of being online makes it easy to mask who we are, I am of the opinion that the majority of people tend to act as themselves. In fact, I think the majority of people that you meet online act MORE like their actual selves than they would otherwise, because of the lack of physical restrictions as I mentioned above.

One other thing. Even though I use it myself frequently, I dislike the term "real life" when talking about thinks that happen in the physical world. To me it has always implied that my experiences online are somehow part of a "fake" life. They're not. The people I interact with online are as real to me as if I were to have physically met them instead; the feelings are real, the thoughts are real, the words are real, the experiences are real. There is no "real life" and "second life" - it's all life.

Anyway that was rambly and long, but hopefully it made sense. Yes I think love online is real, and I think people shouldn't be afraid to experience it if it happens to come their way. :)