Esoteric immersionism

Well. Now try to explain that to an audience of skeptical, anti-SLers. It simply will get you an audience raising collectively their eyebrows.

Tell it to an audience of “veteran” SLers (by that I mean anyone who has been around for enough time to feel involved with it, i.e. has passed the “tourist stage”) and… there will be less eyebrow-raising. Many will still reject it. Some will say, “oh, well, I just buy business suits in SL, it’s not as if I’m reasoning about my ego… it’s just the way it feels better, nothing else, no need to rationalise it to any extremes”. But… they will not utterly reject the idea. The audience of non-SLers will think you’re crazy; the audience of veteran residents will probably dismiss the idea for themselves, but agree that for many, this might be the case (failing to realise that they’re also subject to the same rules). It won’t be a complete lunacy, just a thought they’ve never had before, or had but gave little relevance to it.

Similarly, when you extrapolate from that — starting with the self, continuing towards relationships — things will make the rift between non-SLers and SLers larger and larger. The notion of meaningful relationships in SL (personal, business, or others) will become more and more stranger. Even most residents are often obsessed by the excess of pseudonymity; others, by contrast, wish even more. But for “outsiders”, the whole point is… well, esoteric. It’s outside their sphere of conceptions. It simply does not make any sense at all. And anyone claiming it does make sense — if only you take some time to experience SL for enough time — is a complete lunatic and really in need of psychiatric help.

If you finally reach the point stated on LL’s mission — to create a technology that improves human condition — then you’ll see the ambulance with the guys in white coats arriving to take you away. Simply put, that’s so outside the normal human experience outside SL that people think you are a very dangerous person (to yourself first, but to others too!) and so totally out of touch with the real world that you need to be put away, for your own good.

That’s why conferences with a large number of SL residents in attendance are usually a big success, but one where the majority of the audience has never logged in to SL before is rarely able to pass the message along. Sure, one or two will try it and even immediately “get” it. But that’s the best you can hope.

But there are even more parallels. Remember your first steps in SL as a newbie. People came to voluntarily give you their help. They gave you notecards with tips. They offered you some freebies, and sometimes even some money. They told you what you can do in SL. They explained to you the code of conduct. They further explained you how to form meaningful relationships. Some went shopping with you, or took you to some parties, or discussions, or merely nice places to visit. In a way, they tried very hard to show you what SL has to offer to you. But, ultimately, it will all depend on your mindset and attitude. The vast majority of all users will go through all these steps, and just leave, half-scared, half-furious for wasting so much time, and tell all their friends “these guys are all insane!” A handful, however, will understand the whole thing — but they will also understand something important: there is not a set path (no rules in SL) and you have to travel it on your own, and make SL into what’s important to you, not what others tell you it’s for. Realising that is very very hard, and definitely won’t happen to everybody. And, again, it’s not about the difficult interface, the lousy search engine, or the lag. Residents that have “fit in” are aware of all these issues, but they’re merely an annoyance — it’s the same thing as saying that it’s terrible to be ill in RL or having to pay taxes, but that doesn’t mean that people commit suicide all the time just because of that. We accept them as “facts of life” (of course, if we’re non-conformists about it, we might get engaged politically against those so-called “facts of life”; but most people will accept it as part of being in this community of fellow human beings). Non-SLers will, at best, become good, faithfully returning “tourists” if the interface is easier (or the lag disappears), but it won’t make them Residents with a capital R. For that, insight and a different mindset is necessary.

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