Who would have thought the virtual world could be just as awkward as the real world? This week, our Research Methods class was tasked with creating avatars and experimenting in the popular Second Life. After just a few hours of usage, I can’t say if I loved it or hated it, but I definitely had some weird moments in SL.

First, I started out by creating my avatar with my usual online alias, amandala85. (Oops, now you know who I am in SL!) On my first entry into SL, I was dropped onto a beach and I flew out of there, not so gracefully. Then I somehow transported myself to “London City” and changed my avatar to the “Steampunk look.” I could be wrong, but in the free version, I couldn’t find a way to make my avatar look more like me.

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Me in “London City” in my “Steampunk” outfit.

Just two people talked to me while I was in London. I told one of them I signed up in SL for my class, and one guy (I think; I couldn’t see his avatar) said via the typed chat window he came across SL while doing computer studies. Throughout my time in the game, I didn’t really tell a lot of people I signed up for class because I just wanted to blend in. Later, I saw several people in the open area and tried to “dance” like them, but I couldn’t figure it out at the time, so I left. Plus a nearby conversation about “stoner stories” was coming into my chat feed and that’s not really my scene.

Then I decided to go back to Welcome Point on Social Island 1. At this point, I ran into another girl avatar. I apologized, though I found that other people ran into me while in SL and said nothing (I guess manners aren’t necessary in the virtual realm). She couldn’t have been nicer and shared with me her folder called “Fave Freebies.” I asked her via the chat window (since I didn’t have my microphone function working) if she had any tips of where to go next and she said to visit “The Free Dove,” which has a lot of different free outfits.

Sure enough, there were plenty of outfits, and 80s music playing, in “The Free Dove.” Getting in touch with my inner girly girl, I started picking up and trying on outfits and I found a multi-colored one with wings. I thought, “what the hell?” and put on an outfit that I’d probably only wear at a costume party in the real world.

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I’ve got wings — at least at “The Free Dove” in Second Life!

Toward the end of my very first SL visit, I went to “Help Island Public.” I probably should have gone there first, but I didn’t realize there was such a place until later in the game. I saw two people talking near a bench and the girl said “my heart” and he said “is it broken?” I went over and introduced myself and then sat down on the bench. They were also very nice and said hello, but they totally stopped the conversation they were originally having. So I excused myself and signed out for the night.

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Well, this is awkward … You don’t really want me to sit down, do you?

SL overall observations
The weirdest thing to me in SL was that I had to trust other people I came across. Web 1.0 me, who used to go into AOL chat rooms all the time, wouldn’t have had a problem with that. But Web 2.0 me has been told to not accept invitations from people I don’t know because they could have bad intentions. Since SL was a foreign world to me, I had to rely on invitations and tips from other people.

Like I said, I would need a lot more practice in maneuvering my avatar and manipulating objects in SL. Being a newbie just made for a lot of awkward moments. I do see its research potential, as some of the conversations you can eavesdrop on are very interesting.

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