Many years ago I moved from Florida to the upper Great Lakes region where seasonal changes can be dramatic – and beautiful. I especially loved the snow. People here told me that I’d get tired of it, but I haven’t. We’ve had so little snow this winter that I’ve gravitated toward snowy sites in Second Life (SL). I’ve also stumbled upon them while shopping for Lotus; in fact, some of the most attractive winter landscapes that I’ve run across are near stores. All of the snapshots in this post were taken while shopping.
About shopping I have a couple of confessions: First, in real life I don’t like to shop. Fortunately my husband does, and I can enjoy shopping with him for family Christmas gifts; but a 2-hour stretch is about all I can take before I get addled. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a flashback to the childhood terror I felt when my mother, who could shop for hours on end, threatened to “whip” me if I didn’t quit playing in the clothes racks (she never did). Maybe it’s sensory overload – so much stuff everywhere, so many sounds and people moving around. Maybe it’s my cluster of negative attitudes about consumerism.
In any case, I vividly remember the first time I walked into a Wal-Mart; I needed eyedrops. The shelves containing eyedrops were tall and wide; a vast variety of colorful labels announced relief for every known and invented eye ailment. The aisle was too narrow. I was cartless, but others who weren’t seemed intent on jostling me. I couldn’t focus. I stared at the shelves in an awestruck panic and walked out without making a purchase.
Second, I confess that I do enjoy shopping in SL – a tad too much, I suspect. I recognize that it’s a rather narcissistic pursuit and an odd one at that. Lotus, after all, is a digital entity who disappears with a click. What does it really matter how well she is dressed or coiffed or what kind of house, furniture, and garden she has? A basic avatar with freebie clothes and a cushion for a home at Peace Park ought to do just fine for digital explorations, especially for an avatar who mostly keeps to herself.
I haven’t sought a social life in SL, mainly because my initial goal was (and remains) to discover virtual educational opportunities and the learning potential of virtual worlds now and as they evolve. But I do care how Lotus looks, how she presents herself to other virtual citizens. She represents me. In a way, she’s a mirror; and when she looks good, I feel good.
Sure, it’s narcissism of a kind, and it smacks of triviality. Shopping won’t save the world or make it better. To help to do that will require Lotus to become more socially engaged with avatars who also represent and mirror people who are trying to make a difference in educational and humanitarian enterprises.
Nevertheless, appearance matters; it’s a presentation of self. How an avatar looks can influence how others interact (or choose not to interact) with her. For example, recently I fled when a tall male av in a black cape with glowing red eyes approached; and I kept my distance from a group of female shoppers who appeared to be wearing nothing but skimpy black underwear. Great people every one, perhaps; but I didn’t care to find out. Quite simply, they’re not my style. Live and let live. Meanwhile, Lotus and I will continue to explore and develop her style – or simply decide she doesn’t need one :^).
I have several other interpretations on why vampire and slattern costumes repel me. And I have at least one more reason, a more personal one, on why I like to shop in Second Life. But this is enough about me for now.
Perhaps you’d like to share your perspective on virtual world shopping. For example, do you enjoy it? If so, why? If not, why not? I’d love to hear from you.