Wednesday, January 4, 2012


There's something that I point out in my "Avatar Safety" class...people tell the most outrageous lies about themselves in Second Life.  This is one reason why some users wish SL was more like FaceBook...they think our avatars should look like our Real Life selves and we should use our Real Life names.

Sometimes, I even think that they have a point.  I mean, I enjoy being a different person in Second Life, and I know others who enjoy being  many different people.  I would not want to be in a "Real Life Only" version of SL.  But the anonymity of user names and malleable avatars also provides an ideal smoke screen for malicious liars and mind-gamers to hide behind.  Let me give you two examples.

The Kid.  A couple of days ago, I got a call from a fellow mentor to come and help a new resident with his Voice settings.  When I arrived on the scene, we were in a shop in a Moderate region of the grid.  However, the other mentor said that when she had first met this newcomer, it was in an Adult sandbox region.  I was able to tell the new resident how to fix his too-loud Voice settings in pretty short order.  However, both of us noticed that he had a very childish-sounding voice.  We called in yet another, more experienced mentor to assist.

Now, I don't like to Abuse Report someone for being under age unless I have solid proof...i.e., an admission of age in IM or local text chat.  There are voice morphing programs, plus some people just have a very deceptive-sounding voice.  It's easy to make a false accusation.  But in this case, it wasn't just a matter of pitch.  This resident didn't sound like a woman, let alone a man...he sounded like a little kid, maybe 10 or 12 years old at the most.  Even worse, his word choice and the way he responded to us was very "child-like".  When we pressed the newcomer for an admission of age, he stopped using voice entirely and switched to text, and when we continued to ask him to admit to being under age, he teleported away or logged off. 

After discussing the matter, the three of us decided to AR him on suspicion of being under-age.  I believe it was the best of a poor set of choices.  Pre-teen children should not (in my opinion) be exposed to the content of Second Life...and should not be allowed to freely masquerade as adults.  The potential for harm, both to the child and to the unsuspecting adults he or she interacts with, is too great.

The Accident Victim.  My second vignette is about an attention seeker.  We'll call him "J.R."  This fellow hung around the White Tiger Help Island area for several days, chatting and making friends.  Then, one day, he showed up with a distressing story.  He was not, he said, J.R.'s usual operator, but a friend of his, and he had come to tell us that the real J.R. had been in a bad auto accident.  He was, we were told, in such severe pain that he'd been put into an induced coma.

This upset some of his new friends a great deal, as you might expect.  I, on the other hand, had heard this story over and over again from other mind-twisters.  This scenario dates back way before Second Life, to the days of internet chat rooms.  The details differ, but the stories all have a striking similarity much so that after you have heard it a few times, you begin to wish that people would be just a little bit more original.

A couple of days later, I happened to run across J.R. in another sim.  I addressed him sardonically, telling him that all his White Tiger friends would be happy to see he'd come out of his induced coma.  He responded with the same story, but with enough holes and twists that it was pretty easy to figure out that is was a story.  Besides, his style of texting was, shall we say, rather unique...full of typos, grammatical errors, and transposed letters.  I am morally certain (though I can't prove it of course) that J.R.'s operator was, in fact, J.R. and not some stand-in.

It's a twisted bid for attention, to tell someone their friend is in trouble, or sick, or dying, or dead.  People like J.R. get their kicks out of sowing emotional upset and mental confusion in their wake.  Very often, cowards use this ploy to get out of an SL relationship they no longer want to be in.  Sometimes, the tale is accompanied by a plea for money.  "All of us at the office are taking up a collection for J.R., and I thought his Second Life friends might like to contribute."

This kind of malicious lying is, in my view, one of the worst sins one can commit in a virtual world.  When we can change everything about ourselves, personal integrity becomes even more important.  I don't want to change SL into FaceBook...but I do wish there were fewer people in it willing to lie to gain an advantage, or go somewhere they should not, or confuse and upset other residents.


  1. In that respect, I can totally agree with verification. And the sad part is that we have to have verification because of abuses of this magnitude.

  2. Of course I completely agree with Lindal on her assessment of the behaviors described. At this point, I don't believe anything told to me in sl, outside of the members of my own family. The depth, breadth, and stupidity of the culture of lies simply takes the breath away.