On Tuesday, May 11th I had the pleasure of attending the screening of Life 2.0, a documentary about Second Life, at ICF Theatre’s Stranger Than Fiction. Director Jason Spingarn-Koff follows people for a period of over a year or more as they maneuver life lived in a mixed reality.
The scenarios include two people, each married to someone else, involved in a cyberaffair, complete with hook-ups in Second Life to using webcam technology for face-to-face encounters. Their love affair takes them out of cyberspace for several in-person encounters. Emotions are high and limerence, that state of intense romantic desire for another person, is clearly evident. This is an affair of great proportions~ emotional, cerebral and physical~ filled with the excitement and consequences of infidelity.
An intimate look into the lives of several people who are brave enough to share their stories continues. Another young adult who is engaged to be married logs into Second Life and soon he has created an alter~ an 11 year-old girl who he describes is a part of himself. This story line is rich and psychodynamic offering a glimpse into the impact of virtual worlds on the lives of people who have experienced childhood trauma. The vulnerabilities of the adult male, his alter child female, his “real life” fiance and other avatars the child befriends in Second Life are all laid out across the screen in a disturbing yet expected fashion.
A woman searching for meaning in her vocation discovers that she can merge her love of gaming with her talent for design. She also explains that she has been dealing with several health issues so working from home is a plus for her. She starts a business creating a line of clothing and accessories as well as designer homes and landscapes. She manages to turn her hobby into a profitable enterprise. As with any entrepreneur, she applies focused concentration and long hours.
It is the stuff of life that therapists have been dealing with for years, or is it?
Enter the ability to create an alternate digital reality and these life struggles become magnified. Online disinhibition means that people do and say things in cyberspace they might not be able or willing to do or say in their “real life.” Quotations are purposeful here because the underlying message is that these cyber experiences ARE real- as real as what I had for breakfast this morning.
So what does this documentary offer those of us in the helping professions? How about a new chapter in multiculturalism? Cyberculture is rich, full, real and impactful. Our clients don’t just go to soccer games, or movies or to Paris or Walt Disney. They don’t just have clandestine affairs at work or deal with historical issues of abuse in the therapist’s consultation room. They go to Second Life, another destination rendering the thrill of decadent and clandestine meetings, corporate enterprise, vocational fulfillment and the ability to create a new beginning, reconstruct a past event or extend parts of oneself into another reality.
If you have the opportunity to view Life 2.0, don’t miss it. Your understanding of cyberspace will grow beyond measure.
Stay tuned for more about Life 2.0. We will regularly post notes of interest to our readers.