Today, the social aspect of the internet has become as lucrative, if not more, as the online shops and multitude of other web-businesses that operate, launch, and degrade into non-updated web-junk day after day. I am a regular user of social networking sites (such as facebook and myspace) as well as (how can we not today?) an email junky. There are definate choices I have made however, regarding my 'online-self.' For example, I don't provide very much information on my facebook.com profile since I feel that many of the peopleI have become "friends" with [in the online sense] don't really need to know too much about me. And as for the real friends that I actually socialize with, outside of the web, they could probably ask for information or come to learn it as they see me. Either way, I have always been opposed to putting too much information about my personal tastes and things, as, to be honest, I find it rather trivial. Another aspect comes with my use of myspace as a music promotion tool. I do not use it as a personal social-network communications device, so that changes what information I have available as well. Only news regarding future shows, and etc. can be found there. Also, the profile I have written tells really nothing about myself, but is rather more of an impression to instill on possible listeners. Whatever the case, I spend too much time on social-networking sites, but the thing of it is, as people keep writing me messages and adding me to thier lists, it has become a responsibility rather than a leisure activity, similar to the evolution of my email inbox as a fun space where I could read jokes and lame chain letters to a workspace where each new message has some task included therein.
I found the Turkle readings kind of scary in conection to the Second Life phenomenon. Immediately in the beginning, the author pinpoints the major swing in peoples' social habits today.
Many of the institutions that used to bring people together—a main street, a union hall, a town meetring—no longer work as before. Many people spend most of their day alone at the screen of a television or a computer(Turkle, 178).
It immediately called to mind the mainstreet in the town I grew up in, which was only bustling on holidays like the 4th of July or during a parade, otherwise a deadzone of human activity. Home is where the heart is, and the internet connection I guess.
I also like the points about the ability to "forge" an identity in online-sociability. In a way, I suppose, my band's myspace site is a "forged" identity since it gives off an impression that is solely related to my musical self, and has very little to do with the rest of my identity.
Though, I did find the interviews with extensive MUD users rather disturbing. The most telling line, I think, was the example regarding a flodded dorm room (from a burst water-pipe) and how this trauma increased[!!] the users' MUD time from approximately 80 hours a week to somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 hours per week. This kind of escapism is frightening as I see it all over these days, from friends that play WoW to people that sit on facebook and look at hours and hours of profiles, photos, and whatever other information they can find about thier friends whom are probably doing the same.
Second Life I suppose is just another cog I would imagine, and like anything else, users will have to learn to use it in moderation. The seamless integration to real life however, (using 3-d models, real cash, and citing the IBM meetings example) seems to raise the stakes a little more for someone who is prone to compulsive behavior. As a child of a former compulsive gambler, this kind of fantasy land is very, very frightening. Like the casinos where the windows tint and the lights are always bright, it's easy to lose sight of time, and in this case, identity. But for those with money and time to waste, I'm sure it will be great. I guess I can't forget to mention the third group, those with ambition and skills to turn second-life into a career.
As a last add-on, this comes directly from the second-life website:
"Islands are priced at US$1,675 for 65,536 square meters (about 16 acres). Monthly land fees for maintenance are US$295."
Wow, that's pretty cheap for some electricity and server space....right?? Right??? Who will be god of this universe that's being created? Will it be a virtual, or actual democracy when we know cash is the bottom line?