Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BBBC #4: "Age" - Is There a Psychosocial Lifecycle for Avatars?

Shockwave Plasma is the latest high-profile avatar to "retire" from Second Life. After four and a half years of virtual life, she wrote:
"For some time I have found SL draining, and it's also starting to become dull, I just can't find things to do and I just feel I'm wasting my time. I don't know if this is because the people I grew up with are gone, or I'm just not making new friends, or both."
After reading her post and reflecting on the many others I've known who have either left Second Life or drastically reduced their virtual activity, it struck me that there's probably a psychosocial lifecycle for avatars that mirrors Erikson's stages for humans:
  1. Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust (Infants, 0 to 1 year)
  2. Will: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt (Toddlers, 2 to 3 years)
  3. Purpose: Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool, 4 to 6 years)
  4. Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Childhood, 7 to 12 years)
  5. Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescents, 13 to 19 years)
  6. Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young Adults, 20 to 34 years)
  7. Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle Adulthood, 35 to 65 years)
  8. Central tasks of Middle Adulthood
  9. Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Seniors, 65 years onwards)
I suspect that one reason many of us initially found virtual life so rewarding was that it allowed us to work through one or more of the developmental stages we had not yet mastered in human life. But no matter how rewarding our initial months or years are in avatar form, there eventually comes a time when the honeymoon is over and we find ourselves struggling through waste deep mud instead of flying unhindered towards our heart's desire. It's very easy to give up at this point and lose faith.

There are many reasons this ennui or disillusionment can happen. In some cases we have taken virtual experience in an area as far is it can go. For instance, an intimate relationship that one of the participants needs to extend to human identity. Or it could be that we reached a point of development in one of the areas where hard (and perhaps unpleasant) work is required to break through to the next stage. For instance an artist whose initial creative work has grown stale.

Whatever the underlying cause, it is not surprising that when we reach the point where we feel stuck and can not see any light at the end of the tunnel, we choose to get out of Digital Dodge in search of the new frontier. Perhaps that's a good strategy. Or maybe we would be better off persevering through the long dark night of the virtual soul. Because whatever barrier we must transcend to reach the next level of development, we will need to face it in whatever world we run to.

Oh yeah. Today's Big Bad Blogger Challenge topic is "What's my age again?"
SL Bloggers - Is your avatar more or less your current biological age? Do you portray a younger avatar, or older? Why is this? RL Bloggers - Do you lie about your age? Do you think you act your age? Are you where you thought you'd be at your current age?
 Answer: I'm a fictional character without a biological age.

6 comments:

LDinSTL said...

Would venture to say that the analysis does not necessarily apply to educators. There is a purpose built in - the need for students and faculty to connect beyond words and the flat web is not going away anytime soon. Educator presence is growing, not shrinking. :-)

==Chimera Cosmos==

Botgirl Questi said...

Hi Liz: I agree that it doesn't apply to one's professional choice of Second Life as a platform for education. Although it might relate to one's personal development within the profession.

Ruina Kessel said...

I find this post extremely astute and on target. And it's a good reminder that when things reach a point that require hardwork, it may not be in one's best interest to quit. At the very least, when faced with that obstacle, it's good to consider "am I quitting because it's the right thing to do, or just because it's 'too hard'?".

sororNishi said...

Yes, I totally agree, the easy option is to quit, and I have known people who blame their "addiction" and use this as the excuse.....though I think that is when it gets interesting.

No one said it was easy...that's what LL want to make it....easier......(yawns)...

Botgirl Questi said...

After taking another look at the post, I thought it might be worth clarifying that I have no idea whether any particular person's decision to stay or leave is the best choice.

Storm said...

I joke with friends that you're not an oldtimer until you've withdrawn from SL at least once from boredom. The cycle of excitement->enui->excitement is part of the experience.