Bunny Rabbit (that's what I call Song Clanger) has a term for it -- Vanishing Avatar Syndrome. He said it's "a common affliction." He should know; he has gone through many romances in SL.
He surmises that people disappear when the affair gets too "real" and it "becomes too much for people and, rather than confront, they just fade away." For whatever reason. Too much emotion, complications of taking it out of SL, existing real life relationships.
"SL is life times 500," the bunny explains. "Everything is amped up. Expectations through the roof."
I understood. Somehow, we expect more, precisely because it is a fantasy. We're used to being in control of our own fantasies; we can have anything we want in our fantasies. But we forget that, just like real life, this shared fantasy has its own limitations because the people who build it and participate in it are only human. Humans with their own limitations, with their own expectations, with their own fantasies.
When someone in our Second Life doesn't follow the script of our own fantasy, we panic. The panic manifests in different ways for different people. For me, it's in hiding my identity from a man I learned to love so much that I toyed with the idea of being with him in real life. Perhaps, for January lover, it's in pulling back, distancing himself, fading away.
I told Bunny Rabbit that I wished I had this talk with him months ago. He asks, "Why? How would anything be different? Nobody listens!" :-D
Well, I suppose he's right. I am a stubborn one.