M is for Myg

Live your god damned dream

Archive for the 'SL is good for' Category

Wiggle room

Have you heard?


Well, the rumors are true. I, Mygdala March, am going to be somebody’s mother.

Don’t laugh!

It’s perfectly true, and I’m talking about REAL LIFE knocked up, not just a wacky avatar role play thing with gruesome prim babies. Nothing against wacky avatar role play stuff, seriously.  It would be really great if I could relegate my tremendous back pain to the realm of the digital, but sadly all the discomfort that goes along with the condition is mine in the physical world as well.

Actually to be accurate, I’m going to be two somebodies’ moms. Wow – what’s the correct grammatical structure of a sentence like that? In any case, that means I’m having twins. Twin boys.

They should be here in February, but because they are twins it’s hard to predict exactly when. Depends on how much space they have in there I think. (And by the way, if you’re interested in following the gritty real world adventures of my pregnancy, you are welcome to do so at http://wisermom.org.)

I had to write something about my new shape – the prygnant Myg, because in the past I’ve been rather vocal about NOT having a SL shape that was closer to a RL shape. I summed it up this way:

You are you every day. Don’t you want a chance to be someone, well, different? In some way?

Well guess what was happening? I would log in and see myself in this shape that was so far off from the real one I have been grappling with, it didn’t feel like me anymore. I had lost my attachment to it, if that makes sense.  Since I’ve been pregnant I don’t spend much time in SL anymore. I think reality these days has been fairly engrossing, and I’ve not had much left over for SL. So when I do go in, it’s usually just to see people I want to see. It suddenly became important to me to share what was going on in my real world with my friends in the virtual world. And it became necessary for me to see some representation of that reality on the screen in front of me.

So, there you have it. And now I get it. SL can and should be a lot of things to a lot of people, and what it is can change for the same person over time, as it has for me. Maybe I’ll remember that in the future and keep my mouth shut before making sweeping generalizations about what SL should be.

But I doubt it! After all, I’m still Myg. I’m just, you know, pregnant!

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Second Life is good for…meeting people!

And here we are folks, with another post extolling the good things in Second Life. Today we have social stuff.

group shot

Even the most reclusive of folk tend to need other folk from time to time. I think it’s just our nature. But if you think about the way culture has evolved, once you’re out of school, the places to be social kind of dwindle down.  Let’s take a short inventory, shall we?

First there’s the bar scene. Yuck, that’s what I say. Drunken slobs with bad breath leaning in way too close? No fanks!  Then there’s the club scene, meaning music is involved. I spent plenty o years in the live music club scene, and that’s a lot better in my mind, but not totally ideal if you actually want to get to know people. It’s usually loud and hard to really talk, meaning you have to do the coffee thing after you spot the hottie. That’s okay, but sometimes you just want to meet folks in a platonic sort of way. Some people go to church – I definitely am not one of them.

So that leaves work. Now for me, when I’m not working I don’t really want to think about work. I tend not to ever hang out with work type people for that very reason, even though many of them are perfectly nice. Also, I have this professional demeanor which is a bit more, shall we say, professional, than my inner Myg demeanor. I’m not so sure I want my professional contacts to be all that closely acquainted with my inner mygness.

So then enter Second Life. Now hey, SL is not a replacement for honest-to-god go out to a party and chat with people in the flesh, share a meal or go to a movie kind of socialization. It really isn’t. It is, however, a nice complement to it. And there’s no telling whether your Second Life friends couldn’t someday meet you in the Bahamas for a long weekend of snorkeling, or whether someday you get invited to their RL wedding. Why? Because Second Life allows for a certain kind of intimacy that isn’t necessarily reliant on in-person contact. It won’t ever be a replacement for that, but it definitely can be a stepping stone to it. And even without RL meetings, your Second Life friends can and do become a very real part of your social network and perhaps even your support system.

Come to think of it, there are things I’ve told my SL friends that I’ve yet to tell some of my closest RL friends. Something about not seeing the expression on their faces, the non-verbal communication cues which are critical in anyone’s social skills repertoire, and not showing yours, I think makes it easier to talk about really difficult stuff. And I don’t think that’s bad. You know what it is? It’s simpler. And sometimes tough conversations need simplicity and the space that SL affords one in figuring out how to respond. Again, it’s not better than in-person talks. It’s just less intense, less complicated (and ultimately less rewarding, but not without it’s own value.)

I also think for people who tend to be very inhibited or shy in RL, Second Life can be extremely liberating for the very same reasons. It can allow you to take social risks you never would and it can embolden you in your RL if that’s what you want or need. It’s even done some of this for me, and um, I’m not the shy type. In case you hadn’t picked that up yet.

So hooray for Second Life for expanding my social network in ways I never actually imagined it could. It is true that my SL friends pop up in my mind sometimes as often as my RL friends. They are as real to me as anyone I’ve ever met, though no doubt meeting them in person would substantially alter my perception of who they are.  Even so, I highly doubt it would alter my affection other than to make it stronger.


The Great Romances of Second Life

There’s a lot to this Second Life. It can be a damned rich and rewarding experience, if one were to put one’s mind to it. Or in some cases, one’s heart in it.

Second Loves come in a wide variety of colors and flavors. There’s the RL to SL romance, like the one Alex and I have. Basically, we’re a RL couple who came into SL together and have our own SLives, but also the life we have as a couple in-world. And I’m telling you, we do have a great romance both on and off screen. Don’t hate. Appreciate.

Then there’s the SL crossover to RL couple. This is the SL fairytale couple, I think. It’s very real – in fact, I know of more couples like that than I do like us. But I say fairytale because it just seems kind of magic to me. If I was single I’d say screw online dating services. I’d hang out in Second Life and do the things I thought were cool and I’m thinking I’d have more luck meeting somebody that way. Why? Well, Second Life gives you stuff to do together that you’ve already got in common, and at the same time, enough anonymity and physical safety to let you explore a lot of things without exposing yourself to a stranger in person. For some reason I think that’s an easier way to get to know people for the purposes of potentially hooking up. And I’m a woman, so that whole meeting strangers in cafes thing weirds me out just a little. In Second Life you can actually get to know a person for awhile before meeting them in person, if you ever decide to take things that far.

I’ll write more about this because I think it’s awesome, honestly. But I want to talk to a few people I know first who’ve been through it (I’m sure you know who you are…)

But there’s another kind of SLove that intrigues me too. That’s the SL Only romance. Now, whether the parties decide to keep it that way due to pre-existing RL commitments, or distance, or wanting/needing to keep their SL and RL separate, I don’t know. Circumstances must vary, I’m sure, more so than I mention here. But in any case, the SL Only romance has the ambiance of the most intense literary love affairs – the kind we all can relate to and fantasize about as young girls or boys. Not so tragic as Romeo and Juliet, but more unrequited in some ways than Emma Woodhouse and her darling Mr. Knightley. In any case, I imagine that there is a special place in the heart and mind of the SL Only Lover – a place that keeps your beloved young and perfect forever. It makes me swoon a little to consider it, honestly. But then I’m a sucker for a good love story.

And because I am, I give you Exhibit A – Sue Stonebender and Baron Grayson. I do not know the particulars of their romance well enough to document them justly here, nor do I have any permission to do so. But I do know, when I peruse their online presences, I feel like I am the most rewarded of voyeurs.

That is a photo that Sue Stonebender took called Wonderland. (And hell, I sure hope I don’t piss her off by posting it here because I think Sue is one of the greatest of the SL greats.) To follow this story, I present to you this link: Baron Grayson and Sue Stonebender on FlickR. It’s a delicious exchange between those two creatives. And gives you an idea, I think, with St. Valentine’s day coming, of how you can use your online media to deepen the romance of any relationship.

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Second Life is good for….music!

So imagine this.

You’re sitting in your room or office or kitchen or wherever you sit and you’re listening to some hip little indie radio program from your local college radion station. An amazing song comes on – you must have it! So you wait, wait, wait for the DJ to break and run through the track listings. You’d better hope you’re not in car, about to drive into the Holland Tunnel where the radio reception cuts out and you miss it. And still, you have to wait to go and get the song, then play it for everyone you know so they can bask in its amazingness as well. Maybe there’s a better way…

Imagine now, you turn on your computer and log into Second Life. You teleport your ass down to -=Clockwork=- or some other bitchin’ little out of the way virtual dive beause you know that on most nights of the week, somebody is going to DJ that hip little indie rock show or the rare funk show or the 80s ska/punk show that you love, right there in SL. You can listen and then, hey, actually interact with the DJ, see the track listing as it comes up or just ask the DJ about it. And – bonus – you can also chat up the other fabulously hip virtual scenesters. (Or you can just plant yourself down and listen quietly.)

And while listening, you can go and download those mp3s you’re hearing, support the musicians you’re listening to, and who knows? Maybe you’re so into music you decide to come up with some of your own playlists and get yourself a DJ gig too (which can earn you $L a lot more painlessly than camping or escorting can, by the way).

Listening to music with friends is one of my favorite things to do, in any life. But it’s certainly become my number one activity in Second Life. In any life, not all clubs are created equal so it’s a good idea to talk to folks to find out the good spots (and hey, hit the comments section here with names and SLURLs of the places you love, please, because being a manager at Clockwork, I don’t get out enough…) You can try events, but to be honest, I get so overwhelmed wading through that list I normally don’t bother. So hey – come to Clockwork tonight at around 6pm SLT to hear Gorgeous Guen or tomorrow night at 6pm SLT for Esteban and Alex’s double header, and the Clockwork regulars can fill you in on the best places to check out.

This post doesn’t even touch the blossoming live music scene – something I’m not all that acquainted with, to be honest. But the more I hear about it, the more interested I am in it. So stay tuned.

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Second Life is good for…some psychiatric disorders.

can you hear me now?

Okay so it’s not the sexiest of blog post titles. And to be honest I wasn’t planning to cover the heavy stuff first, but being a RL mental health professional I was just blown away when I read this today:

Research on Asperger’s Syndrome done in Second Life shows early promise. That’s an SLNN article (which I found via The Grid Live) about Brigadoon, a private community created by Braintalk. (Okay caveat, that article is a bit, erm, confusing.) The author states this:

“Brain-imaging and neuro-cognitive tests on the patients have shown, both before and after visiting SL, improvement in the areas of social appropriateness. The effectiveness is still being evaluated but the preliminary results look promising.”

Which is awfully exciting but sadly there’s no reference to any specific research being done (study? authors? I think it’s probably research by the Center for Brain Health, but I’m not sure). Asperger’s is a form of autism where people are cognitively high functioning but have lower functioning in the brain areas responsible for social interaction. If the quote above is true, the areas of the brain responsible for social cognition are demonstrating improved functioning after treatments incorporating SL. And they’re proving it with probably CT-scans and fMRIs. Which is, well, awesome.

This video shows how SL is used in treatment by the Center for Brain Health. A client with Asperger’s demonstrates how he uses SL with a clinician to practice a job interview. According to the Center for Brain Health, this actually helps the brain form new neuro-pathways – reteaching the brain essential skills necessary to cope in both worlds with other humans. The video claims Second Life can also provide this kind of assistance to people with Schizophernia and ADHD.

I for one can definitely see how. Second Life social encounters appear to stimulate the brain differently from RL social interactions, and might very well afford those who are somehow compromised in RL situations advantages. Consider yourself – do you feel differently when you’re interacting with others in SL? Less inhibited perhaps? Or maybe more? This difference has got to be partially due to the lack of non-verbal social cues, (which those with Asperger’s struggle to interpret and respond to in RL).

In terms of helping out with other kinds of psychiatric disorders, I definitely see a use for SL role play, therapy sessions and groups using voice technology being able to assist people with a lot of different mental health issues as well. Imagine the agony of someone with crippling depression or anxiety who can’t leave the house, and the potential help it would be for that person to log in and receive treatment in SL, at least until they were able to go in person. And for anxiety and social phobias, I think the idea of gradual exposure through simulated experience in SL could be a huge assistance.

But that’s just my opinion.

Gosh, this article wasn’t funny at all, was it? Meh, sorry. But I’m trying to compile the good stuff about SL, and in all honesty, as great as it is for many things I think this could be one of the more important contributions SL makes to RL.

Happy Saturday, folks.

Eds. note: Mygdala March is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in RL with a private practice (for teenagers) and a background in in-patient psychiatric treatment, which is why she has opinions and such about things like this…