Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Few Thoughts Inspired by the Retirement of Feathers Boa

Fractured StasisSecond Life artist Feathers Boa recently announced her "early retirement". She wrote:
. . . I find that my real world is simply too busy to devote the time and energy needed to keep up with the virtual world too . . . In the coming months, I will be closing my gallery, my website and shutting down pretty much all aspects of my busy virtual life. I will be selling off all my “originals” and having one last party and gallery show of new work. Then my avatar will ride off into the sunset
It takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and commitment to create the kind of full-blown virtual life that Feathers built for herself.  Given my own experience and the trajectories of so many other virtual lives, it's clear that living two full and separate lives isn't sustainable for most of of us. There simply aren't enough hours in the day.

Some probably wonder why a respected artist like Feathers would need to abandon her hard-won virtual identity altogether. Why not just cut back or take an extended vacation? I can't speak for her, but I've played around with the idea of committing virtual seppuku from time to time.

Identity, physical or virtual, is a box. Sometimes it's one we stand on. Sometimes it's one we're stuck in. Although the development of a public virtual identity is initially freeing, after a few years we can become as typecast as an actor in a long-running comedy series. Think about the better known avatar personalities . . . the ones we know by just their first names. How hard do you think it would be for one of them to change the way they're perceived by the community? (In a positive way. It's easy to fall off the pedestal, but very hard to move to a new one or gracefully float down to ground level.)

I'm not saying it's impossible to reinvent yourself within a virtual identity. I've done it to some degree over the years. But I really understand the pull to just let it go and move on to something new. If nothing else, taking A Year to Live approach would be fascinating.


sororNishi said...

I totally agree.

...and good luck to her (and Sunn, I believe)..

I have a friend, however, who did dump everything. He came back a year later and couldn't, of course, even mod his own content. He was a talented builder.

So...I would advise someone to keep the avatar name... forever is a long time.

Skylar Smythe said...

Agree. I'm sad to see Feathers go and I've had the great privilege of knowing her and appreciating her artistic expression through a close friend of mine.

I admire the choice to pull focus and energy in another direction. I admire the honesty it takes to say that our virtual life (which I have always felt is not like maintaining any "second life" but simply an extension of myself) takes hard work if you aim to accomplish something inside the virtual world.

In my experience also some individuals simply let that "manifestation" of themselves die... and recreate themselves into something more private. Where they can enjoy the simplicity of simply "being" or creating privately in world... without the weight of SLebrity.

She's a deep feeling and incredibly brilliant woman who I will continue to admire no matter what Grid she is logged into.


Scarp Godenot said...

Virtual Suicide seems to me to be a public statement of losing interest in what you have been doing.

It really isn't necessary. You can create as many ALT virtual identities as you would like.

Better to just back off and fade away.

I myself see deleting your avatar as a proactively hostile act to those who are your friends. I don't approve of it at all.

Call me judgemental, and that is what I'm being here, but one can leave SL for one's busy RL WITHOUT making it a drama.

Why burn all your bridges, UNLESS, you truly don't like what that part of your life has become?

Skylar Smythe said...

That's a bit harsh Scarp.

She came... saw ... conquered and now she is off to do other cool stuff.

She is not in any way degrading the experience or the choice of others to remain and continue on. She's simply stating that she's bored... and ready for the next great thing.

It's not personal. :) It's brave. And rather than hearing about her on SL blogs perhaps we'll be hearing about Mary on the news... or on CNET as the incredible next most amazing innovative developer?

Feathers moving on should have no bearing other than .. we'll miss her. And frankly those that she really cares for I'm sure will remain in touch. That's the way it's done.

I hate to see people take negative fatalistic approaches when some folks leave. It adds a very unnecessary element of yuck, when it's really more of a chrysalis in effect.


Botgirl Questi said...

Soror: Yeah. That happened to Night the last time she left and came back. Her whole inventory was lost. I guess one reason why someone might feel the need to delete an account is if they use of their virtual identity is fueled by an addiction (sex addiction for instance.)

Skylar: For sure! I know of a few people who've left Second Life who still have WoW identities, for instance. Also quite a few who used to be very public in social networking and in-world events who now just hang out with their close circle of friends.

In RL or SL, people tend to want you to be the same (assuming they appreciate you in the first place). My RL self was mostly into music/songwriting initially, and there are still old acquaintances who ask EVERY TIME when the next CD is coming out. :)

Scarp: I can relate to your sentiment. But it's very possible to keep in touch with friends through other means, such as IM and email. And I can see a certain ritualistic" passing through the gate" quality to actually killing one's avatar identity, before passing through whatever the next adventure is.

sororNishi said...

Is announcing it to the world, your peers, an attempt to make the decision irreversible.

I can understand your view Scarp, there is an "Exit Stage Left" element. I have felt annoyed by Virtual Suicide. I would fade, it seems polite.

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure she isn't killing her avatar, just resigning from public life. When I spoke to her, she just seemed to be exhausted by everything that was going on in her real life and how much time and energy it takes to keep up a respectable artistic presence in SL.

Anonymous said...

it's really about making it kinda official to be honest. my life is super crazy right now and i love SL art & artists but i don't know how i can keep up with it all anymore.

i feel like i am neglecting stuff in SL. i get so many requests, comments and things that need to be done with the gallery etc.

my lil art career in SL kinda took on a life of it's own and it started to feel like a huge weight.

it's sad because i do love the life i made in SL and the friends i made and the things i learned. i will be staying in touch with loads of ppl via FB and email and txt.

but i need a break from all the 'work' of vitrual 'artwork.' my job has really taken off and i am recently married i want to balance it all out somehow. i am way too lame to do it all well.

i regret none of my time in SL (most of it, i had dramaz too like everyone else) but i feel like making a commitment to move on will keep me from being sucked in by all the activities and demands.

i wanna have a lil time in my life to read a good book and smell the flowers.

*hugs* feathers boa

Botgirl Questi said...

Mary: Congratulations on all of the great stuff happening in your life! You're not lame because you can't live two lives well, you're just human. A smart human. Far better to live one life well than burn the candle at both ends until you flame out or melt away. You were inspiring in your virtual art career and you're inspiring in having the wisdom and courage to leave.

Unknown said...

Dear Mary,

I am sorry to see you go from Second Life, and I am sorry for my share of the drama!

You, are an amazing woman, young, gifted, and I watched you through the years. You dressing in cute sneakers, or sexy high heels, and hot tool belt, with a cute little teddy bear tufted away.

The art piece you did for my mother and I for the Holocaust, will rezz proudly at the next lecture in SL. The piece is called "Let My Spirit Be Free" I wish I could take that piece into RL, so many want to see the piece. My mistake was I never did a Machinima of the piece when it was up at Caerleon, Maybe some here reading this will volunteer to help me make a Machinima and post it up on YouTube so the whole world can see your powerful message of "Hope"

I will cherish your friendship more then anything, and sometimes we never really realize how valuable a friend is until there gone from your life. I will value you and remember the amazing pieces of art and your life through your art.

I support your decision ... Love you my friend .

Helen R. Starr aka Explorer

Anonymous said...

Wish you the help you need to overcome the knowledge of the pain you have caused people and probably yourself by your actions on second life