Friday, June 26, 2009

For Michael, Farrah, Sophrosyne and Me

Sophrosyne Under Glass
It's time to close the book on my life. Not to burn it, not to desecrate it, not to forswear it, but to set it lovingly away on the shelf. I'm done. I've done everything I've cared to do, and done it over and over until the life went out of it. Sophrosyne Stenvaag
In a week that saw the deaths of two of popular culture's most iconic celebrities, Sophrosyne Stenvaag, Second Life's most notable advocate for Digital People, bid farewell yesterday in a post on her blog. Soph was an "avatar's avatar" who viewed herself as a completely separate individual from the atomic world counterpart who her shared her brain. She was an exemplar of a virtual life well lived, with a loving family, an active virtual community and a business that hosted cutting-edge events including a conference on religion, and salons that brought in quite a few leading authors.

I've known Soph for almost the entire year and a half of my own digital existence. Although we didn't hang out very frequently, when we did get together we always had great conversations about the nature of virtual life and the challenges of trying to live it with authenticity. She is one of the rare individuals I know who both walk their talk and talk their walk. I suspect that her idealism played a part in the choice to formally leave virtual life. She was not one to half-ass anything she chose to engage in. (Fortunately, I am, so I'm not going anywhere for the moment.)

The departure this year of so many active Second Life avatars underscores the difficulty, and perhaps impossibility, of sustaining two full lives. While the average Second Life participant spends around twelve hours a week inworld, active residents can spend thirty, forty or even more hours each week embedded in virtual form. Assuming one has a job or is in school, this leaves little time for offline relationships and pursuits. Something eventually has to give. And for Soph, this now means setting aside her cherished and well-used digital persona, at least for now.


Peter Stindberg said...

She was always on the outskirts of my circle. I often referred to her as a "person I would like to get to know better". I never left the coziness of my digital campfire to actually try to DO get to know her better. A chance missed.

Mahala Roviana said...

I've seen this happening more and more. It's hard to find that balance sometimes.