Second Life is an online virtual world that was started by Linden Lab in 2003. Since then its popularity has soared and the online community now consists of over 3 million residents and at least 180,000 unique users. Residents are online personalities that operate through avatars.
These computer generated avatars lead a life online at your command and you can use them to travel the virtual online world and shop. The idea is that through this online community you can live a second life.
However, Second Life raises several ethical issues that those behind online communities should consider…
Vice Magazine ran an interview with Sarah, a 25-year-old paraplegic dwarf from New Jersey who says her life is based around Second Life.
She told Vice ” I get up, get washed for the day, go on Second Life, eat lunch and dinner, log out and go to bed. My world is Second Life; the only things I do in the real world are life essential”
She adds that she has had several online relationships on Second Life and lost her Second Life virginity; “I am a virgin in real life. I lost my SL virginity in 2004. I remember it being terrible. He mainly only used poseballs, they allow you to touch and stuff”
This seems like a worrying over-reliance on an online community especially one in which everyone hides their real life. However, it could be argued Second Life has changed Sarah’s life for the better.
The real difficulty is that Second Life makes a lot of money from vulnerable people. In 2009 the Second Life economy was estimated at $567 million American Dollars and users use real life money to obtain second life credit and maintain their membership. They are buying virtual goods and this means the good only exist on the screen. Is this a good thing to encourage users who place their trust in you to do? What’s your opinion?
Sarah herself sees no issue and is adament that Second Life is a worthy spend adding that her life ambition is to “be the number one model in Second Life”.