Monday, March 8, 2010

worn-out phrases and longing gazes won't get you where you want to go

In case anyone doesn't know, there's a wonderful pair of animators on the grid who run under the name Creative Insanity. Two of their latest releases are a Victorian parasol AO:

Second Life,animations,shopping,avatars

which includes four scripted parasols in two sizes, and a Victorian cane AO:

Second Life,animations,shopping,avatars

which includes a scripted cane (also in four sizes). They both run L$350 each, or, as per usual, you can pick and choose individual animations to add to your own AO HUDs for L$40 per animation. Even better? Beside those AO vendors, and the testing stands, are two vendors for several amusing canes and parasols. (And a warning to Miss Kamenev: yes, one of the umbrellas is called "Charlotte" and features several colors of you-know-what. If you go in, just don't look.)

So, bit of a buzz behind this next tale.

Seems a jobless couple in South Korea, who had had a premature baby to boot (so, neither of them are working; and they have high medical bills, which means more money woes; neglected the health of that flesh-and-blood child in favor of caring for their virtual one.

The Guardian--being the Guardian--not so quietly labels this the fault of the internet. So does Prokovy Neva (not surprising, that, but I'm amused at the irony of someone who uses Second Life for part of, if not all of, their RL income speaking out against it). (Of course, if the shop sales ever pick up again? I'll be doing the same thing, so hey, irony all around.)

Wagner James Au mentions that "Any powerful medium is bound to push the already unhinged into even darker territory." And I think that's true. And, in all the links I've followed on all the various blogs I've tracked down, the one thing no one can tell me is: do games like Second Life, and the internet in general, cause depression?

That's because I think that answer is still no. All the studies in the world won't convince me of that until they find a well-adjusted, happy person holding down a good job with a loving partner, who is then introduced to the net cold, withdraws totally, and tries to commit suicide.

I'm not saying this wasn't a tragedy. This was. People have attempted suicide, or actually suicided, over SL. People have neglected their children enough for them to die of it, like this sad case, or over the case several years back where parents of a four-month old again left their baby at home, went to an internet cafe, and spent the next several hours playing WoW--while their child, at home alone, rolled onto its stomach and suffocated. So this isn't new.

And for every story of doom and gloom regarding SL or the net? There's also one like this. Love and romance can work out in Second Life, and on the net. In fact, when it works out, it generally works out that the couple inseparable in SL, turns out meeting up in RL and at least dating, if not getting married. Lady Fogwoman and her piratical swain, Vivito Volare (does he have a title at this point? I can't recall) is an excellent example. I'm now another one--since Miss Neome is now talking to the lady wife in the front room as I type this. (Though granted, that's an amusing irk; she's never in SL anymore, unless she's spending time with the wife. So in SL did we effectively break up?)

The problem with too much Second Life, or even too much net time, is when someone's already out on that distant ledge, and contemplating ways out. Friends and socializing off the net is vital. And no one should clock more hours playing any game on the net than they do on their job, or spend with their friends and families.

Not everyone has a great support system. I know this. And everyone has weak moments, I know that too. In October of 2007, I clocked more hours on the grid, awake, than I did at my job and sleeping combined. I pulled more sick days that month, which eventually led to me losing that job. This was not good. But, I was also busy being highly stressed, depressed, and very ill--and I don't mean psychologically, I mean physically. There was the occasional thought that drifted through that I might not survive what was going on.

I did (obviously), though it took me some time to build my strength back. Did Second Life cause this behavior? No. It didn't. Yes, it happened to be there, but it could have been World of Warcraft, Diablo, some mystically drawing chat room, or obsessively watching Fashion TV. I was ill because of what I had, not the internet. I was online because it was easier than worrying about potential mortality. And I was in Second Life because I liked it better than MMOs.

So, okay, the single largest personal hobby in South Korea is internet gaming. Two babies from two different couples--though there could be more--have died due to the same behavior: already-depressed parents seek solace in an environment where they can't be as easily hurt. And they left home, where the baby would likely be crying for help, over staying home and dealing with the problems they had.

Okay. That's bad. I am not in any way saying that's good. Lives were lost; young lives were lost; the internet and virtual game spaces became more important, more real, to these people than what was real; than the world in which they actually lived.

But this has been happening since the dawn of time. It is not the internet. The problem is not online gaming, even though that can and does suck up a lot of hours for some of us. It's everything that precedes that decision to get online.

Do you spend time with your friends regularly? Do you spend time with your family regularly? Do you have a wife, husband, significant other/s, cat, dog, rabid Tasmanian weasel? Is it a good relationship? Do you have children? Do you enjoy spending time with them? Do you try to support them and have fun with them? (Same goes for the wife, husband, lover/s, cat or weasel.) Are you employed?

If the answer to half--or more--of these questions is in the negative? You might have a problem. Quirkily, there are support groups on the internet. Hells, there's even a few internet addiction support groups on the internet. And if you go to Supportforhealing Island, there's even support there.

What we need is less fear on these issues, not more stories covering the shock and horror of these 'abnormal' sorts who would rather !!let their children die!! than give up that last level of whatever game they're addicted to. Let's talk about why someone would do that, could do that. Who was talking to them? How did these people grow up--were they from supportive homes, or abusive ones? At this point in our culture--in any culture--we know enough from anthropological studies, sociological studies, and sheer cussed human nature to know what happens when things get bad. Men take it out on women; women take it out on their kids; situations explode. And then we sit back smugly and talk about the poor kids and the abused wife and how it's such a good thing the husband in in jail now. Right?

Wrong. Talk to someone you trust. If you don't know anyone you can trust, take the trip to Supportforhealing and see if there's a therapist on staff when you go. Sometimes, all we need is a supportive ear. If our problems overwhelm us, reaching out is the right action. People might think you're crazy? Screw them. Talk to someone. Friend. Family member. Church volunteer. Call the Suicide Support Hotline; most cities have one. Just reach out, find one, and get whatever it is out of your head.

That's the problem. Not the net.

Do I think actively being on Second Life is damaging people? No. Hell, no.

Damaging the asset server, maybe...But what everyone needs to remember is: Second Life is life on speed. Falling in love? Easier here. But heartbreak cuts deeper, too, and happens more often. Standard length of an SL marriage: still two months. Two months. From 'hi who are you' to 'I never want to be without you' to 'I'm banning you from my land OMG I can't believe I let you touch me!" TWO. MONTHS.

It's not SL. It's not WoW. It's not the net. What causes depression and anxiety in people is disconnection. And, most of the time, that disconnection happened back in childhood, before they were old enough to figure out they could type on a keyboard, let alone rack up levels as a Night Mohawk, or whatever.

Figure out your own problems. We all have them. Just don't listen to that voice in your head that says you can't say anything. That kills things. People. Relationships. And the occasional infant.

Don't do it.

Runes of Magic celebrates its first year! Whee. Don't get me wrong, I still adore the game, but I'd be happier if either of my main characters had gotten anywhere, seriously, without stalling out somewhere due to not wanting to play alone. (And I know, that's me, I play plenty of games alone, and I am in a Guild in RoM--I think--but still.) Through March 15th, there are giveaways, contests, evil Facebook tie-ins, and double XP and TP for cutting the usual swath of destruction through the countryside. Happy first year, Runes!

Unfortunately, it comes with poison icing on the cake--Runes is introducing voice chat. Fraaack. There goes the neighborhood...


Rhianon Jameson said...

Good points all. People who are unhappy will find ways of being unhappy. One is reminded of the article about the subset of "Avatar" viewers who were depressed after seeing the movie because life was not like that. The movie didn't cause their unhappiness, it merely provided a focus for that unhappiness.

Put more succinctly, if you're neglecting an actual child for any reason, you have a problem.

Diamanda Gustafson said...

The only objection I have is that the employment question is a harder one to add to the picture - many of us, in this economy have been looking for employment for a very good amount of time, with no avail. I'm a personal example from that, not having seen a paycheck in my name since March 2009.

There are also people that choose, or are forced to be single, or childless for a variety of realities of life. Physical conditions, sexual orientation, employment situation, bla bla bla. It happens.

Having said all that, I clock less hours in-world now than when I actually had a job, but then I'm SL-jaded for a vast variety of reasons as it is.

The secret there is, or should be, delegation of time between the virtual and the material (for lack of better word) reality. Hobbies, creative outlets, the works - either by yourself, or with the people around you that should define your life.

On a last note, I saw the Oscars couple nights ago. One of the visual effects guys said at his acceptance speech that we ought to remember that the world we live in is equally wonderful to the world they created. That, is pretty much it.

Dia, full time stay-at-home artist, for now. ;)

Riven Homewood said...

If this couple had gone out to a bar and left their baby home, there would doubtless be cries to close all bars. But most people would see quite clearly that the problem lies with the people, not the bar.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson, that's an excellent way to put it. Avatar did not cause people to become depressed; Second Life does not cause people to become depressed. People are depressed and media sources, net sources, music that speaks strongly to hearts, these all become the focus of the depression that is already there.

Why someone is depressed is always more important than what they're doing while depressed.

Lady Dia,

Employment is tricky. Yet South Korea's economy overall (where both infant deaths happened) is still better than ours. And depression and stress can happen anywhere, among those who have six-figure incomes and those who aren't sure which alley they're sleeping in tonight.

Otherwise, I agree with you. I spend a lot of time on Second Life (though less than I did). I also spend a lot of time on the net in general. And, even when I'm not online, per se, I can frequently be found at the keys.

But I also write and am teaching myself how to bake textures on sculpts; that, I can't do off the computer. I also sew, embroider, go out to movies, make the odd experimental meal, and get together with friends and family when I can. Not as often as I should, but that has to do with issues of regaining strength, again, not "net addiction".

(At this point? Computer addiction in general, sure, I'll cop to that.)

Lalo Telling said...

I ranted on your main topic in the second half of this post. Grace McDunnough also had some interesting comments in her own blog, as well as appended to mine... and she also posted a "you may have a problem if..." questionnaire.

The problem I have is with the questionnaires themselves. I commented about the one Grace presented, and that applies here, too. I was going to go into detail, but Dia just said what I meant to, in fewer words.

Let me just emphasize that one size does not fit all.

Emilly Orr said...

Exactly. Both couples went to internet cafes; where's the recall for city-wide WiFi, then? The protests to close all StarBucks? (Or whatever the South Korean equivalent is.)

What happens, where it happens, these are symptoms. What the people thought and felt, that's the issue. And, with that, it could have been a net cafe, the top of a cliff, a bridge, a dance club--whatever.

Rules and restrictions to guard against the shape of the Bad Thing will never help, if we don't focus on why the Bad Thing happened.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Telling,

I'll check those out. (Off the topic, want to track down the book you mentioned here. Plus, excellent, well-thought-out post.)

Rhianon Jameson said...

By the way, "Mad World"? It didn't hit me the first time, but I saw the title again and something stirred in the primordial sludge in the back of my brain stem.

Lalo Telling said...

@Rhianon: If you mean the source of Miss Em's title, it's from "Words of Love" by The Mamas & the Papas (John Phillips wrote it, Cass Elliot sang it).

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson,

Mr. Telling is correct. I was in the mood for some harmony, and dug out the Mamas & Papas stuph. So there's now that one, Creeque Alley--which showed up titling another entry--and a few others cycling on the player.

Vivito Volare said...

I agree.

Obsessive or compulsive behavior is its own monster. The thing or activity that becomes the focus is usually benign.

That said, any activity where the brain disengages identity from the body, well...some people cannot handle it. Others want, no, need to escape from themselves.

Books, Roleplay, Television, and Computers have all, at some point or another, played some unfortunate role in someone "losing their footing" so-to-speak.

I don't see Viacom packing up shop any time soon, and Dover Press is hardly locking up pocket editions of Camus for driving someone to "bringing the ultimate absurdity to a close"

(As to titles, I have several. Some can even be spoken in polite company)

Emilly Orr said...

Oh, believe me, I know about obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Likely more than I should.

And along with books, roleplay (live, paper or online), television, and computers--toss in music and movies as well. Because really--if it's something external that someone can point to? "That's why this terrible thing happened!" It makes it all so neat, so clean. "It wasn't us, it was that awful band/song/film/online game! THAT made them shoot their best friend/kill themselves/become a drug addict!"

Sure, anything can be an activation agent. But if the person doesn't have that potential to begin with...I mean, yes, anyone can be pushed too far, and many have. But in the main, people are already pushed that far if they fall into something else, and forget to come up for air.

They were already drowning. It's just that no one noticed.

(As to titles, I have several. Some can even be spoken in polite company)

*giggles* Oh, well then. :)