To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.
In Second Life (SL) as in Real Life (RL), we meet people and we have dealings with them. But, for anything beyond simple greetings or rudimentary dealings, there needs to be a basis for a relationship whether that be simply friendship, romantic, or commercial. This basis, in my mind, is trust. Or, how willing are we to confide in someone else? That they won’t betray, humiliate, or steal from us?
For me, there are three fundamental questions about trust in SL. First, what is trust? Next, can we really trust anyone in SL? Finally, is trust even necessary in SL?
Let’s start with “What is trust?” In RL, why do we trust others? For safety, peace of mind, companionship, the ability to operate beyond our immediate span of control because we know we have the support of others are a few obvious reaons. How about this, we want to know that we won’t get a sexually transmitted disease from our partner, that the father of our children isn’t running about spreading his seed to all and sundry with the consequences appearing nine months later. (Really messes up providing for your own family to say nothing of estate planning.)
There are probably other reasons but you get the gist of what I’m saying, trust is all about knowing you can rely on someone for mutual benefit. (I must sound terribly cynical, huh?)
Now, the next question, “Can we really trust anyone in SL?” Hmm. Let’s see, for the most part, we use fictitious names and identities. Many people aren’t even the same gender as they are in RL. (I’ve seen some stories that claim most female avatars in SL are really men.) Then there are the avatars that aren’t even human.
See where I’m going here? In RL, trust typically entails a relationship between two or more people where confidences are shared and there’s a level of emotional, if not physical intimacy. What basis can there be for trust when everything is fictitious? (Some might argue that much RL trust is based on fiction too so what am I getting all bothered about? I’ll leave that one for Dr. Phil.)
Finally, is trust even necessary in SL?
Trust in RL is all about protecting oneself from catastrophic harm either physical or emotional. What’s the worst that can happen in SL? We can always come back as an alt if need be. Even if collared, an avatar can just log out and come back in.
Now, as my friend, Lindal Kidd, pointed out recently in her blog, some SL residents swap passwords with partners. This is definitely not a best practice and neither Lindal or I recommend doing this. Some serious losses including RL financial ones can result from this. But, here, SL is merging with RL and I’m avoiding that one for now.
Likewise, voice, Skype, and RL pictures blur SL and RL when residents step off the Grid and this is definitely beyond my pay grade to sort out. (Significant Other already thinks I’m dangerously close to going over the edge there as it is.)
Myself, I’d like to believe in trust in SL. There’s something to be said for taking another person at their word even if I don’t know who they are. There’s an old political saying that says the only way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them. (Yes, maybe as President Reagan, once said, “Trust but verify.”)
Yes, I won’t be sharing my passwords with anyone soon but that doesn’t mean I can’t take people at face value and I want people inworld to know that my word is my bond because, if not, I’m going to have a hard time blogging about life in SL.
I can also say that I haven’t met anyone inworld yet who has broken trust with me. (Please don’t take this as an invitation to drop by and do so.)
I’d be very interested in others’ thoughts and experiences with trust in SL. Please use my contact info below to reach me.
As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life please click here.