Essay the First: Getting Over It and Second Life

THERE is another sort of glory, which is the having too good an opinion of our own worth. ‘Tis an inconsiderate affection with which we flatter ourselves, and that represents us to ourselves other than we truly are; like the passion of love, and that lends beauties and graces to the object, and makes those who are caught by it, with a depraved and corrupt judgment, consider the thing which they love other and more perfect than it is.

-Michel de Montaigne, Essai X, ‘of Presumption’

Anyone else recognize themselves above?  Anyone else ever spotted themselves having too good an opinion of their own worth?
I have, from time to time (and some might argue, daily), indulged in this particular vice. I do try not to, at least.
It bears note, by the by, that M. de Montaigne wrote these words at least 420 years ago (as 1592 was his final revision of his noteable work, Essais.  But it has some relevance to our very lives today, doesn’t it?)
Why does one presume?  Why does one magnify his self-worth beyond that of everyone else?  Philosophy and sociology have advanced any number of possible answers, of course, but I’m going to modestly advance my own theories, here.

Warning: egos will be shredded, past the more tag.  You are warned.  If you feel your ego’s getting shredded, at least take some comfort in the fact that nobody knows I’m talking about you until such time as you comment.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, “it’s better to be thought an arrogant prick than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

I’ve been seeing a lot of arrogant presumption referenced on other people’s blogs lately.  Some folks I know are active participants in a community inworld, and there’s apparently some fuss about who’s going to get to decide what gets done by this group of folks for how many cookies. The long and short, as far as I can tell from over here in the realm of People Who Aren’t Engaged, is that the whole thing is turning into something rather like the Spanish Succession Wars: full of vicious infighting and infranecine squabbling, backstabbing, constantly shifting alliances and regular bile heaped to and fro in (I’m guessing: I don’t even know) communities on SL and blogs off SL… a battle to the finish for the glory of getting elected to some post: some post or other (or is it group of posts? I’m not even that clear on the situation!) which will exercise some authority in a coming time period.
To those of us outside of all of it, the whole thing is a confusing miasma, and a signal recommendation that maybe we don’t wanna dip into the matter.  Y’all just go ahead and play around with the toy soldiers over there: I promised that designer I’d blog her new mesh fundoshi sometime soon, and then there’s that hunt I administer, and then there’s the people I know in SL who are actually having RL difficulties.
Myself included.

Now I gotta point out: I’m filling in the blanks third-hand here, folks.  If you think I’m talking about your own messy struggle of brother against brother and mother against daughter, cousin versus cousin, to determine whether the Infanta should ascend to the throne of a unified Spain?
I’m not.
I’m talking about ALL of this sort of trouble.   Perhaps the Spanish Succession Wars make a poor metaphor, and instead, the wars over the Low Countries (known more widely today as BeNeLux) would fit better?  I really don’t know.

It can be so easy – so very, very easy – to let yourself get all tangled up in one another’s complaints about who did which to whom for how many linden bucks back in the Days Before Time (or probably more accurately, the Days Before Flexis).  I’ve carried scar tissue from conflicts at least as long myself, and have had people raise an eyebrow when I have, on my metaphorical crutch, steered a wide berth around persons whose behavior is something like a pile of chocolates sitting inside of a beartrap.  No, no thank you, not going to repeat that particular chunk of bullshit from the past: I’ll be over here with the folks who are playing dress-up, thankyouverymuch.
The difference I see in what I’m portraying here as my own behavior is this: I just walk around the beartrap, I don’t scream ‘THAT OVER THERE IT’S A BEARTRAP IT NEARLY TOOK MY LEG OFF WHY DO YOU THINK I USE THIS CRUTCH?!? IT’S A TRAP!!!’

(I also don’t comment on battles in Star Wars, nor do I play with Chinese finger traps.  The graphic above was borrowed from a wallpaper site, as it made me giggle: you should go browse!)

Yes, I at least try to keep from shrieking about this or that or the other old wound.  Who cares if Giniver Hightower once said that I sucked at portraying Prince Fogglebottom in the roleplay that she and I used to play in?  Who gives a damn if Frodikins Wrigglesworth once totally screwed me on trading something no-copy that I owned for something no-copy he owned?

A few general rules to bring to the table when you find yourself in social trench warfare, then.

Rule #1: People Are Sometimes Shitty.
Yep, you heard it here first.  Sometimes, people are right assholes.  While I do subscribe to the belief that people generally are well-intentioned, sometimes, people make self-serving decisions.  You probably already learned this one in RL, but you have to be ready for that to happen when interacting with folks in Second Life, because it can be awfully easy for some people to assume that the folks in Second Life are somehow ‘not real’.  I’ve always found that mystifying: if you’re spending all this time talking to people on SL and building goods and texturing buildings and arranging scenery… why wouldn’t anyone else in SL be just as real as you are?

Rule #2: People Are Seldom ALWAYS Shitty.
Yep, you heard it here first: Nath Pevensey thinks that people are not typically constantly guilty of asshole-ism.  And indeed, I’ve been an asshole on occasion myself, when there seemed no other means of accomplishing what I wanted.  I do try to smooth ruffled feathers over when it happens, and to make sure people understand that the assholeism was of a limited scope (‘I’m getting that goddamned headpiece from Gizza and there is NO WAY you are stopping me’, ‘I don’t want this person to be around where I am because their behavior is almost always negative, so I’m going to make sure you all know I don’t want him around’, and so on).  When you’re dealing with someone being an asshole?  It’s often their last resort tactic.  So you can approach that tactic in two ways.
A: ‘Oh, he’s pulling out the tactical nukes.  I guess he knows he’s losing.’
B: ‘Oh, this is really not going his way.  I should probably take some time to understand what he wants, so I can try to make this sting a little less.’
While there’s something schadenfreude-rrific about A, B is the tactic I try to adhere to. No matter how much glee I take in watching someone shoot themselves in the foot.

Rule #3: Your Mileage WILL Vary.
Folks on the internet will often say ‘This is what I saw, ymmv’.  YMMV stands for ‘Your mileage may vary’, which is a sort of short-hand for ‘Hey, this is how it worked for me, but you may have a different experience’.  Your Mileage WILL Vary, however, is an important point in social interactions that go negatively.
If people are only assholes when they feel up against the wall, then it follows like dawn after dusk that they’re NOT assholes when they DON’T feel up against the wall, right?  So maybe I dealt with Pookums String when her RL landlord had just handed her a notice of eviction, and she logged in to find her inworld spouse cheating on her with her best friends.  All four of them.  At once.
Pookums proceeded to be such an asshole to me at that point in time when I happened to IM her that she went straight into my ‘block’ list.  I haven’t spoken to her since, I’m still just shocked and appalled by her behavior, 3 years ago.
Pookums and I both belong to a group of folks who are interested in, uhm… let me pull one out of my ass… gachas.  Or lipsynch performances in SL.  Or punk rock menswear.  What is my responsibility, when someone suggests to me that she might make a good mod for the group?
My responsibility is to admit ‘I have had an issue with her in the past, so I can own that my judgement may be a bit clouded by that’.  My responsibility ALSO is to say to myself ‘I know Pookums is very enthusiastic about the group’s focus, and has spent a great deal of effort on the group’s interests. The last 20 notices in the group came from Pookums, informing us of a new gacha/performance/anarchy-spraypainted leather jacket.  Can I trust her to do her best for the group?’ before I actually answer someone’s query.
There’re people who I would rather not spend 2 minutes speaking to, but who I know very well will knock themselves out to do their level best to help a community we both belong to.  My own experience does not shape the overall experience of the world.  No matter HOW EASY it is to forget that in SL, nope: I had a shitty time with Pookums.  Pookums probably had a shitty time with me at that point in time too.  That doesn’t change that Pookums and I both care about our mohawks/randomly-chosen-little-thingies-from-vending-machines/chance to see someone dress their avatar up like Robert Plant and ‘perform’ a whole Honeydrippers concert.  That doesn’t change that I can probably trust Pookums to do her best to make that happen.

Rule #4: Don’t Sweat The Petty Stuff.
Seriously, people get so invested in freaking out about little picayune bullshit that they forget, entirely, that they’re in SL to have fun.  What, you came here for the triple-tiered investment strategy available in the arbitrage of linden prices over the course of a day?  Sure, mate.  Pull the other one: it’s got bells on.

I hope that I haven’t lost too many of you in this essay, and I do hope nobody’s feeling their own ego to have been bruised.  Here, have a photograph of something silly.
Are you having as much fun as Bonadea and her dance partner, right now?
You’re not?  Huh… well, why not?
Can you stop doing what is preventing your fun?  Then why not STOP DOING IT, and HAVE FUN???

All hail the Infanta! 😀


3 thoughts on “Essay the First: Getting Over It and Second Life

  1. “Can you stop doing what is preventing your fun? Then why not STOP DOING IT, and HAVE FUN???”

    best advice I read on an SL blog in a long long long while.

    • It amazes me how people – and I include myself in this one!!! – will get all wound up in what was SUPPOSED TO BE fun, and just STRUGGLE AGAINST IT NOT BEING FUN DAMMIT THIS WILL BE FUN.
      If you aren’t enjoying yourself, approach it from a different angle: see if there’s something you can do that will make it fun!
      I used to work in a job RL that involved a lot of customer support questions that were quite apparently coming from people with actual psychological problems. A coworker and I had a running contest for who would get the craziest thing every week: it was just something to keep us both saner, really. But the schadenfreude did make the job a little less agonizing.

      So in SL, why should you beat your head against a set of pixels that aren’t taking you anywhere interesting? If the reward is outstripped by the effort, you’re allowed to say ‘thank you but no’ and carry on with your life.

      I just don’t get it. I really, really don’t.

  2. Just catching up on posts!

    I think that most people join SL in the hopes that it will be fun, an escape from a difficult first life, something creative and artistic, a way to alleviate loneliness, something a bit more constructive to pass the time or even just to porn it up without disturbing the horses, as it were. For a number of reasons, a good proportion of people have their hopes dashed. They find out that it’s just like first life, in fact it’s worse because people cannot be held accountable for their actions here and are free to behave in the most dreadful fashion. So our hopeful entrants to SL get upset and retaliate in kind because it’s yet another arena that cannot fulfill their needs or wants. It’s what causes a lot of your observations of SL life.

    If we could just stop for a while, reel in our reactions and try another approach (as you so succinctly put it) then we have a chance of it being at least something of what we originally wished for. It’s not easy, though. So many areas to get caught up in, as you’ve recounted. I sometimes think that a writer’s life is not so bad at all, at least he’s only got the characters he creates to deal with and there’s always the virtual tippex to sort that recalcitrant lot out.

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