OK, first thing, read this article: A Virtual Life. An Actual Death. It opens in another window; I’ll wait here.
Now before you mistakenly think that I’m posting this link as a way of saying “See? Gor is bad!”, I want to say that–much as I personally dislike the setting–I believe that Gor had little to do with the story of Carmen. It could just as easily have been any other RP setting, be it Steampunk or Harry Potter or Vampires or Star Trek. The setting really is but an incidental player in this drama.
What matters is how deeply someone with such a rational mind and a clear eye let herself get drawn in, emotionally. And I’ve seen so many people in SL do this (myself no exception), get sucked in to an emotional investment which in the end is so much fantasy. Building closeness and friendships and genuine trusts is a good thing; letting those feelings take over your life (first, Second, or otherwise) is dangerous.
It’s easy to scoff and roll eyes, from the outside looking in. But it isn’t until you’re well entrenched on the inside that you realize you’re there at all, and by then you’re usually in over your head. You start letting this online emotional attachment eat into your away-from-the-keyboard thoughts, when you’re doing housework, when you’re trying to sleep at night. Half of you chastises the other half of you for being such a fool, for letting something that isn’t supposed to be real affect you in this way. You become less and less able to talk to the flesh-and-bones people in your “waking” world about it, because it becomes harder and harder to verbalize to someone who isn’t themselves part of the “dreaming” world. And when RL gets tough, like when you’re rolling up change to get tags for a yard sale tough, it’s so easy to just want to forget about it all and wrap up in that blanket.
So, don’t ask me what I know about it. I know plenty.
Can I stop anytime I want? I honestly don’t know. I like to think I can, though usually I just log on an alt and focus on a different “other life” for a while. There’s comfort in controlling your own world. When your RL domicile is a mess and bills are piling up and people around you are hurting, there’s an anesthesia to be found in being able to build yourself a dream house, run your personal space exactly to your visions, go to places you never could visit otherwise. And with that all, the comfort of knowing there’s some fantasy person (or people) who get that in ways your RL people can’t.
I guess the lesson to be learned from the article is that while what we see and what we perceive is a fantasy, somewhere back there is a real person with a real heart that beats, and a real life of bills and housework and stresses of their own. We just have to be extremely careful when we do make that investment (and I say “when”, not “if”), whatever it may be.