Blake Snow

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Tagged alternate reality

The promise and limitations of online life are niche, detached, and fascinating

The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future by Leslie Jamison profiles the last big thing that never was, namely Second Life, which went from millions of users at its peak a decade ago to a stagnated 600,000 a month today. These were my favorite excerpts from the remarkable long-form report:

  • [Second Life] crystallizes the simultaneous siren call and shame of wanting an alternate life. It raises questions about where unfettered fantasy leads, as well as about how we navigate the boundary between the virtual and the real.
  • My aversion to Second Life—as well as my embrace of flaw and imperfection in the physical world—testified to my own good fortune as much as anything. When I move through the real world, I am buffered by my (relative) youth, my (relative) health, and my (relative) freedom. Who am I to begrudge those who have found in the reaches of Second Life what they couldn’t find offline?
  • It’s like a digital Norman Rockwell painting, an ideal of upper-middle-class American domesticity—an utterly unremarkable fantasy.
  • Last year, Alicia and Al adopted two more children, but found it problematic that the new kids wanted “so much, so fast.” Rather than wanting to weave in and out of role-play, they constantly did things that demanded attention, like losing their shoes, jumping off the roof, climbing trees they couldn’t get down from, and starting projects they couldn’t finish. Basically, they behaved more like actual kids than like adults pretending to be kids.

In fairness, obscure Second Life users are no different than staged selfies or “real life” divisions such as watching a baseball game, daydreaming, or escaping into the bottomless ether of our smartphones, Jamison argues. But many committed Second Life holdouts seemingly live a perplexing (if not delusional) double life.

See also: Ready Player One