I had to comment on this article. My husband left it out for me to read - his not-so-hidden code for "See, this is why I'm worried about you spending time on Second Life."
Without a lot of time to gather my thoughts, I reassured him by explaining the following to him:
1. Reporters looking for someone "addicted to the Internet" or "cheating on their wife virtually" will always find someone who fits the bill. That doesn't mean it is the norm or prevalent. It just means that the reporter had a story and found her sources.
2. People with a propensity toward addiction can become addicted to the Internet. This Internet addiction was written about in the 1990s - scary, hyped-up stories looking at the worst of the worst situations. Now it is Virtual World addiction but it is all the same thing - addiction.
3. Looking at the real life of the guy featured in the article, he seems a bit of a...loser. His real life has been mostly drifting from job to job, no real direction. Someone like this - who may be dissatisfied with their real life - may find a virtual world attractive because you can be whatever you want to be in it. In Second Life, he is a successful entrepreneur.
4. My husband pointed out the quote from Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, who says "Our brains are not specialized for 21st-century media. There's no switch that says, 'Process this differently because it's on a screen.' " My first response to this was that, again, reporters looking for people who will say what they want to hear for the stories they are writing will find the perfect person to quote.
That said, it is also possible that the reporter found out about this article from a press release from Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab talking about their 5 year research and thought "Wow, this would make a good article."
There are also several recent related news stories in other publications like Stanford lab makes it reality and Stanford Lab Explores Hman Effects of Virtual Reality Technology. These could have caught the reporter's eye and then she looked for a "fresh" angle.
I know there are people who are in Second Life having virtual affairs, going on virtual dates with other avatars even if they are married, flirting with others virtually. I'm not naive.
But I reassured my husband that while I enjoy my time in Second Life, it is not because I am having an affair or want to have an affair. I'm not looking to engage in a relationship with someone else in a virtual world. My relationship is with him, and even though he will probably never set foot in Second Life, that doesn't mean I'll go looking for a virtual husband.
I'm in Second Life for several reasons:
1. It is helpful to my work as an Internet consultant to know what virtual worlds are all about.
2. As a serial entrepreneur, marketer and veteran online community builder, I immediately saw the potential for doing business and building community in Second Life and think that marketing can be done in virtual worlds if strategic and long-term.
3. It definitely appeals to the side of me that used to make paper dolls as a little girl. I love shopping virtually and putting together ensembles. I can't say I'm the most fashionable avatar around, but my avatar wears the things that I would wear if I spent money on clothing and had places to go to wear those things.
4. I have always been fascinated with science fiction, futuristic things and after reading Neuromancer in the early 90s, with virtual worlds. Being in Second Life isn't fake to me. So maybe I'm proving Jeremy Bailenson right in that I don't really say "This is fake in Second Life - this is not my real life." I look at my time in SL as an extension of the work I do in my real life with a little extra shopping thrown in.
I made a vow to myself that I would stop playing Second Life after my initial $50 investment in a PayPal account ran out and if I hadn't yet figured out how to make Linden. I still have $30 in that account and enough Linden to keep my avatar in cute outfits for a long time.
Bottom line: We're all in Second Life for different reasons. Reporters can find exactly who they are looking for to tell the story they want to tell. Today, the media is hyping virtual world addiction and virtual world cheating. Look back 10 years and you'll see the same thing about Internet addiction and virtual cheating in Internet chat rooms. This isn't new. And this isn't news.