You know who you are. In the context of SL, “you” requires definition. Is “you” the persona that inhabits the Second Life grid, a persona that could change every hour, or be supplemented by an army of alts, or is “you” the typist behind the scenes. The typist, as a matter of fact, could ALSO be plural. I did meet a woman who “shares” her SL login with another person, and I’m not sure I really understood why that was, just that I had to tactfully inquire on “who” I was speaking to before continuing.
For the purposes of this entry, I’m defining “you” as a singular typist. Then the question becomes, what can you know of a person purely through their words? If you habitually make judgments about authors based on how they craft sentences, as I do, quite a lot. I don’t think you can fake intelligence or education or sensitivity and many of those qualities clearly transmit through the small keyhole of the chat window. Which frankly, makes many of the people one encounters in SL opaque. Let me clarify — I have been greatly enriched and learned a lot from real life people who are not verbal, but in SL, that dimension is completely missing, so for me it becomes boring.
So, from time to time, this typist meets SL typists that are stimulating, funny, mournful, interesting, informative, helpful, scornful, friendly or have some other quality that makes them individually recognizable. I’m making a broad generalization here, but the conversations I’d put in this category go beyond ‘lol’:) The concept of a conversation itself, let’s be honest, leaves many people in the dust.
Then there comes along, among the people I’m honored to have as friends in SL, the one where the minds meet. Then ensues the dilemma and the temptation. The temptation occurs when the conversation leaps out of the chat box, when you can’t type fast or succinctly enough to capture the thoughts that pour into your mind in response. When you wish you had a luxurious dinner and a good bottle of wine as a more appropriate time line, rather than a flakey viewer likely to drop you at any second. (Real life, regardless of its drawbacks, is remarkably persistent, you have to hand that to the Programmer.) The dilemma occurs when you think about being more candid, more disclosive. I have been online long enough to have had the extremely disconcerting experience of filling in the blanks between enticing words only to find out that the person behind those words did not, to say the least, correspond to that mental picture. We are story telling creatures who crave the ride, the plot curve, the pot at the end of the rainbow. So, I do not, as far as possible, jump to conclusions, but try to stick to the words themselves as the only concrete in the situation.
But I do miss you. There are probably many reasons why the conversation should not continue, due to other responsibilities, differences in real life circumstances or mere prudence. Frankly, I wouldn’t want any of those factors to be elucidated, if they would interfere with the sheer delight of verbal interaction. In the internet age, there should be a new category of friendship, one based purely on verbal affinity, with nothing more known or required. Platonic on a new level. To that friendship, I raise my virtual glass. It was grand typing.