Sunday, 30 October 2011

Second Life

I've been asked to write a post on how Second Life makes a difference to my life as someone who is mostly housebound and unable to socialise or interact in the normal way. You may not be familiar with Second Life yourself. It is a MUVE - a Multi User Virtual Environment. That is different from being a game. Imagine that you are chatting on MSN or Yahoo etc, but it becomes real. You can be face to face with the person you are chatting to, or a representation of that person at least. You have been drawn into a different world created by peoples imaginations, and you can move among that world, meeting other people whom you would otherwise not have met, from all over the world, and all walks of life. It is an extreme form of Instant Messaging I guess, with many more ways to interact injected in it.

You can join Second Life here: http://secondlife.com/

Before I share my experience I would just like to warn anyone who does choose to sign up, to not use a username that they use for anything else online. 

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I am in pain. I am always in pain. Chronic pain. For the most part I cannot leave my house, not only due to pain, but because I often cannot stand up for more than ten minutes without starting to black out. I have M.E. - Mylagic Encephalomyelitis. It is a neurological condition which affects the immune and endocrine systems ... officially. In actuality it seems to affect every single facet of my body and life.

I am hypermobile, I have hypothyroidism, I have Fibromylagia, and arthritis in my back. I have eczema, asthma, and ... other things ... but it is M.E. that causes the problems. I cannot, for example, follow the simple process of preparing a meal, let alone remain standing to actually cook it. I am frequently over-sensitive to sound, or light, meaning I cannot listen to music, or watch the television, and need to turn my monitors brightness down as far as it will go. I cannot even begin to describe the fatigue and how it messes with my sleep pattern. Prior to becoming ill I had a career marketing biotech products. I used to swim 50 lengths after work three times a week. I used to go down to London, clubbing with friends, and I did charity work at the weekends. I absolutely loathe the life that I am now forced to live.

At this time last year I was bedbound. I was too weak to stand, and my body would not accept any nourishment. I had discovered Second Life a few months previously, and it was these friends who stood by me through that nightmare.

The ability to log in to Second Life when I choose, gives me a sense of control. On Second Life I have no need for food, so I don't need to worry that I am unable to prepare a meal, or that my body may reject it. On Second Life I can walk for as long as I want to, I can dance, I can even fly! And there's no pain in any of these ... unless my fingers are hurting too much to type, but if that is the case I can then use voice with people.

When you first join Second Life you notice that everyone is tall, beautiful or handsome. As such it teaches you to look beyond the aesthetics of pixels into the person behind the avatar. And it teaches you that you are beautiful, that people can appreciate you for who you are inside. 

On Second Life I go shopping. I cannot do this in real life. Some of my favourite stores are:-
- Curious Kitties
- Phoenix Rising
- Twighlight Star
- Monsoon
I can change my outfit at the touch of a button, which is by far preferable to the unbalanced saga I experience in real life each day. I tend to change my hair too. Several times a day. Most of my outfits have been free though because my favourite past time on Second Life is hunting. There are grid-wide treasure-hunts, each participating store offering a free item.

I also spend time playing games such as Greedy or En Garde, or exploring sims of haunted houses, forests, or moon scapes. And I spend quite a lot of time just chilling with my friends at a venue or their homes.

Even on Second Life though, I have had to adapt to cope to a certain extent. Many sim owners are keen on fancy animated graphics or objects. These cause me to become extremely giddy and nauseous. I used to wear a blindfold to avoid these items (it blanks out my screen), but have recently discovered that I can derender them, meaning that they just disappear and I can enjoy the rest of the environment. I very rarely have music or environmental sounds turned on because of the affect continuous noise has on me. As I already mentioned, when I am in too much pain to type I can use voice. I can also have one of my friends leash me so that I do not have to worry about moving my avatar, and using RLV they can teleport me between sims too.

Second Life allows me to have a life. It gives me the ability to interact with people on a personal level, every day, to make friends, or enemies, and to feel almost normal. It may well be pretend, but it's a whole lot better than the complete emptiness my life would otherwise be.

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At the touch of a button
I have a life
A home
Friends
Lovers
Beautiful vistas
and parties galore.

At the touch of a button
My legs work
My arms work
No Pain
No weakness
Derender irritating objects
and mute annoying people.

At the touch of a button
Rude people
Politics
Arguments
and stress
... sometimes, I need time out.

I return to my bed
to stare at the ceiling, at dust, cobwebs, and spiders
to pain, weakness, loneliness, and boredom
day in
day out
It does not take long for me
to touch that button once again.

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