Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tragic Death of Baby Demands The Virtual World Community Dig Deeper and Look in the Mirror

I didn't click the link to the Gamer's Tot Dies of Starvation headline when it popped up in my virtual world feed on Thursday. I assumed it was a tabloid story making a dubious connection between the horrific death of a child and a parent's coincidental participation in an online game. Three days and hundreds of articles later it seems clear that there was a deep connection between the parents' participation in virtual worlds and the eventual neglect-induced death of their 3-month-old daughter.

Although sensational headlines such as Girl starved to death while parents raised virtual child in online game are overly-simplistic, the underlying tragedy demands that those of us who are active in the avatar community dig deeper into our own virtual lives:
  • Does the time and energy we devote to online activity negatively impact our families to any substantive degree? Don't just say no. Ask them.
  • Are there any important physical world tasks that are being neglected while we spend time in virtual worlds? Career? Education? What else?
  • Is there an addictive or compulsive quality to our own use of virtual worlds, social networks or other online activity?  Does the thought of being forced to spend a week totally off the network make you flinch? How about a month? A year? 
The most active and outspoken members of the avatar community are usually so focused on defending the legitimacy of virtual worlds that we tend to off-handedly shrug off these kind of questions. I think it's time we take a hard, clear-eyed look in the mirror.


ArminasX said...

As with any activity, if not managed it can control your life. Virtual worlds are no different in that respect to playing basketball, gourmet food, smoking, alcohol, youtube or even reading dead-tree books. If you're life falls apart because you're obsessed with something, then perhaps it's time to change your behaviour.

Botgirl Questi said...

I agree that one can act compulsively in relation to all of the examples you gave. If I was a sports blogger, I would have written the same post if a baby died because his or her parents were spending all their time watching the Olympics. :)

I agree with you that if one's life is falling apart, it certainly makes sense to change the causal behavior. But the point of my post was that it makes sense to question our actions before we suffer some catastrophic outcome.

Kwame Oh said...

This tragedy is unfolding every day, and not only with regard kid & family, but with the individuals communication and general well being in the reality which is organic.

As most of you know I have been banging on about unanimity and commune in social media for a while now, not because we not only need to know who you are, for our own general safety emotional or in some cases physical, but also for yours.

Am not saying my example of sharing my family life, would have saved this child, but maybe just maybe in the dialogue on-line the parents would have been asked how is baby X, is she over the cold you mentioned last week?, and other such dialogues all so important in our and others lives, and perhaps this would have brought the reality that should have been back into focus, we will never know for sure.

What I do know for sure, is I would if had been in the world in which this couple got lost in, feel just as guilty as they, as did not follow through on my principle, "of if I do not know "you" then am capable of hurting not only me, but myself".

Julius Sowu Virtually-Linked

Michele Hyacinth said...

I can't even wrap my mind around this tragedy.