being alone never felt right. sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.
Is it me or has Second Life (SL) gotten very quiet lately?
I mean the kind of quiet you experience when you’re out late at night in a city known for its nightlife but all you’re hearing is the sound of the street lights hissing in the fog. When you don’t even look over your shoulder because you know no one’s there.
That’s the kind of quiet I’m talking about. (Significant Other is accusing me of channeling Raymond Chandler here.)
Once upon a time, SL was everyplace, both inworld and in Real Life (RL).
There was all the RL media hype around SL which culminated in the well known cover story on Businessweek back in 2006. Inworld seemed to be crowded all the time. When I first rezzed into SL, there would be a little drop box which showed the number of residents online at that time.
Linden Lab (LL) employees (“Lindens”) were everywhere and residents would recount tales of aid and support from the famous blue dots.
Blogs abounded in the Metaverse about SL.
Where are we today?
Well, mainstream media hardly says peep about SL. Sometimes, I encounter RL friends who act surprised when I inform them that SL is still around. Does anyone remember who Anshe Chung was or, if they do what she’s doing today?
While there are still vibrant and active communities inworld, the large, noisy crowds of merry makers-cum-strangers who just happened to come together for a good time when I first rezzed seem to be a thing of the past. That fresh sense of discovering a brave, new world is gone.
That little drop box showing online residents? That disappeared years ago. (I’m always suspicious when people stop sharing information that they used to make freely available. I mean I could understand if they wanted to charge for it but just going away?) Rumors of membership stagnation abound.
Lindens? They are now the stuff of legend like the ancient gods of Greece. Maybe they’re somewhere on Mount Olympus in San Francisco looking down on us mere mortals or maybe not…
The blogs? Sadly, many of these seem to have ended abruptly about the time the Great Recession started in 2008.
In some of my travels across the Grid, I visited some of the great builds. I saw magnificent work. But, frequently, I was the only one there. Some of these have gone away I’m presuming because of the high tier pricing or maybe the owners/builders just got lonely.
There are small signs of life and the old vitality. The terms of service controversy got a little notice in the Metaverse if not the mainstream media. Oculus Rift and Google Glass offer a hint of technical revitalization. Mesh appears to have excited builders and scripters and new products are being offered and old problems solved.
So, what’s going on?
I see inworld what I’ve seen happen in my RL home, America. Where once there were thriving, vital small communities scattered across the continent connected by railroads, the interstate highway, and the telephone (Don’t forget radio stations and TV sometimes before cable.) there are now near ghost towns populated by aging Baby Boomers. The businesses closed down and moved away long ago. Even the malls are dying. (There hasn’t been a new, indoor shopping mall built in America built since 2006.) What has to be bought can be acquired at a big box Wal-mart which offers minimum wage jobs (frequently being the only private employer with the possible exception of a McDonald’s) and an increasingly limited choice of merchandise sourced from overseas.
Am I being negative?
Perhaps so, and I apologize because I do try to avoid that trap. I want to avoid being like the priest on Sunday who harangues his regular Mass goers for all those who do not attend every Sunday.
I once asked the question is SL viable as a civilization. I believe it can be but without the props of a real civilization such as an economy with safeguards for intellectual property and other forms of commerce then we may stagnate and become just a virtual form of a board game like Candy Land with certain adult overtones.
Do we hit the wall?
But I’m always an optimist. (Significant Other thinks it’s one of my more redeeming features.) There is still a hard core of dedicated residents inworld whom I’m proud to be part of and whom I’ll continue to visit with, explore, have experiences together with, and blog about. The inworld tools even with their limits are incredible and great work is still being done by many talented residents. Finally, the sense of community and purpose is still strong among those still inworld.
LL could help. SL is like the shoemaker’s children. A more caring and interested corporate parent would be helpful. Maybe a first sign might be Lindens returning inworld? (Yes, I know, they may be overwhelmed at first but that’s the price of bringing everyone together again and revitalizing the brand.)
Other tools like social media that I’ve recently blogged about can help.
Let’s not forget what we can do ourselves. (I may get a little preachy here.) When was the last time you invited a RL friend inworld? (OK, I get it, some of you may be doing things inworld that you don’t want their RL friends to know about.) Or, how about this, have you invited a stranger wandering around your sim to join you and your friends? Maybe simply have a conversation with them? (Some of you, please try to keep your minds out of the gutter.)
If all else fails, how about supporting local merchants inworld when you can afford to?Yes, it’s quiet in SL now, too quiet. Hopefully, we’ll start hearing more noise again and it will overwhelm the sounds of our footsteps echoing down once empty roads.
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker. Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.