|Night's last tweets|
Sabrinaa was very open about her human identity. Night's was completely opaque. Both shared stories about their human lives in personal conversations. The difference was that Night never gave away personally identifying details.
Although I had a much closer friendship with Night than Sabrinaa, I never knew which, if any, of the stories Night shared about her human life included obfuscations designed to prevent me from intentionally or inadvertently discovering her human identity. Interestingly enough, my skepticism about the details of her human life didn't extend to commitments made within the context of our collaborative work or a feeling of genuine friendship. Until she disappeared.
I've had a number of Second Life friends vanish without a trace over the last few years, including Rheta Shan, whose reported death is still uncertain in the fog of pseudonymity.
As in RL, loss within virtual world relationships and communities is an unavoidable fact of life. Death can bring a community together. It reminds of us of the fragility of life and can make us appreciate our time together more deeply. But when avatars simply disappear, it can have the opposite effect and lead us to question the authenticity of our pseudonymous relationships.
I don't know whether Night is dead or alive . . . whether leaving without a word to anyone was a strategic act to avoid the stress of disclosure or the unavoidable result of coercion, illness or death. We may never know. In any case, I think there's still a lot more for us to learn about the impact of pseudonymity on both our individual relationships and collective communities.