Who am I?

Last night, a new friend noticed when I referred to my avatar in the third person and it struck him. He says he thinks of his avatar as himself. I told him that I started dissociating from Opal the first time my heart was broken. It was my way of dealing with the pain. This morning, I wondered, what if I dissociated with my real life self? And -- boom! -- it hit me. I found one answer to the age-old question "Who am I?"

Who I am is not this physical body in the real world, and certainly not my avatar. Who I am is not the personality, not the mind. Who I am may not even be what we call the individual soul. All those are just tools to bring forth who I REALLY am. Who I really am is the sum of my actions, my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions, my memories.

But let me demonstrate how infinite that sum is. You see, my actions, my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions, and my memories are tightly integrated with the actions, experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories of everybody I've encountered and everybody who has ever been affected by my actions. Life is a shared experience after all.

Therefore, who I am is also the sum of the actions, experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories of all those people. And each of them is the sum of their own actions, experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories, and those of every person THEY've encountered. And so on, until it comes back to me and goes around again. Ad infinitum.

So, who am I? I am you.

A case for anonymity

I had been good about keeping my anonymity intact until recently. Circumstances have forced me to reveal my identity to a few people. Two of those circumstances were issues of trust and accountability; the third was an economic decision.

Jaime asked me once why I feel the need to be anonymous. I don't do anything illegal in SL. The most compromising thing I've done is cyber sex*, but isn't sex a natural part of the human experience anyway? And didn't I want to take credit for the work I've done inside SL?

But there is one significant reason.

SL allows us to be what we cannot be in real life, to live a fantasy. For me, that fantasy is to have physical beauty. But I've later realized that having a beautiful avatar is not just for my own benefit; it is also a gift to the world. After all, aren't we just trying to create Utopia in here? So, just as an artist creates a thing of beauty as a gift to the world, this avatar is my contribution to Utopia.

But it is so easy to fall in love in SL and, eventually, someone falls in love with the fantasy I created and I fall in love right back with the fantasy they've created. I always remind my lovers that they're falling in love with a woman who does not exist. Yes, I have the same intelligence, personality, and voice in real life, but I do not have the beauty that my avatar has. They insist that it's still me. But no matter what these men say, my avatar's looks are part of what attracted them to me, part of the fantasy of having won the affections of a beautiful woman. After all, isn't it a big ego boost to have a beautiful woman on your arm?

Revealing my identity would dispel that fantasy. Wouldn't it be a big let-down if you realize that the lover, whose beauty you have been proud of, is not beautiful at all? Maybe that doubt was always in the back of your mind, but having it confirmed would be as cruel as having a gift snatched away from you.

So, besides the few exceptions, I remain anonymous, I preserve the fantasy. For my sake and for the sake of every SL lover I've had.

* In light of a recent SL blog, I guess I should emphasize that I'm talking about sex between consensual adults.

Why doesn't romantic roleplay last?

Howard seems to have acquired the habit of picking my brains about relationships lately. (Isn't it enough that I write in my blog, Howard?) Since Howard is also a techie, let me put it in techspeak: I don't have the bandwidth to provide a pull-content service; I only push content. But I'll answer your question this time, since I don't have material to write about, being loverless at the moment.

So, why doesn't romantic roleplay last? I'll start with the obvious answer: It's roleplay, for crying out loud! How many roleplays do you know last more than a year?!?

Okay, now the serious answers:

1. It's usually because of sheer incompatibility. If you were looking for a real life partner, you're more careful about whom you pick. Do you share the same interests? Do you subscribe to the same beliefs? Is their personality compatible with yours? Can you live with this person for a very long time? Will this person always have your interests at heart? Do you have similar dreams?

But in a roleplay, you only care about superficial things. Does the other person want to do the same roleplay? A Gorean will look for another Gorean; a furry will look for another furry. And, most importantly, -- and, yes, I'm saying this very bluntly -- is this person willing to have sex with you?

2. Roleplay is not authentic. You might be feeling cranky and crabby one day, but you have to be nice and sweet, because, well, that's your role. Crankiness and crabbiness is reality, and your SL lover isn't looking for reality in a roleplay. Your SL lover is looking for a fantasy, and so are you. You wouldn't want a cranky and crabby lover ruining YOUR fantasy either, would you?

3. It takes a lot of energy to maintain an illusion. It also takes a lot of energy to deal with the emotions that the roleplay generates. Eventually, one or both of the partners wonder if the roleplay is worth the energy they expend on it. After all, it's just roleplay.

4. In roleplay, both parties fall into their roles right away. Not only do they suspend disbelief, they also suspend mistrust. But the trust they have is fleeting and fragile, because it doesn't have the requisite foundation that is built only by getting to know a person over a period of time. Without that foundation, it is even easier for trust to turn into doubt. And how can you expect a romantic relationship to last without trust?

I'm sure I can think of other reasons why romantic roleplays don't last, but I've used up my available bandwidth. So any other reason I come up with will have to wait for the next CPU cycle.