25, October, 2008 20 Comments
Some nights ago, I turned on the TV and found myself drawn into the BBC documentary shown on our local channel entitled Wonderland: Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love.
The programme features 37 year-old American suburban housewife and mother of 4, Carolyn having a passionate affair. She spends up to 18 hours a day with her lover in Second Life, the immersive, 3D online website. Her Second Life lover, Elliot lives in London and keeps asking to meet her.
So immersed and engrossed is she in her Second Life relationship, that she neglects her children and her hapless husband, who must be so madly in love with her (or just mad) that he’s willing to overlook his wife’s obsession and stay by her side, as she works out her feelings for an avatar. Her home is a mess and her bed is left unmade as she sits at the side of the bedroom typing away on her keyboard, transforming herself into a voluptuous Amazonian-type goddess in Second Life. Of course, Elliot is a hunky stud in warrior garb on Second Life. When Amazonian-like goddess meets Zulu-like stud, how can (virtual) sparks not fly?
After about 8 months of online relationship, Carolyn decides to make the trip to London to meet him and to see if their virtual love could transcend the online world’s seeming perfections and make it in the real world. Well, what did you think will come out of it? I think the outcome should be pretty obvious.
While some laud her act and see it in a romantic light – woman abandons old humdrum life to seek new life and new courage – many are critical, and see her as needing to get her act together and needing to basically get a life.
Some see Second Life as an escapism – into a world in which you could be whoever you wanted to be. You could have your very own beach house or mansion. (This should make it very popular with land-scarce Singaporeans!) I mean, hey you could even fly!
Another couple was featured on the programme and they got married in Second Life – the bride looked resplendent in her white gown and unimaginably huge train that would have tripped anyone within a 5 metre-radius if it were in real life, and the guests even cried tears of joy! It’s just like the real thing – gushed the bride – you have to pick the gown, the venue and the flowers. She mentioned that her Second Life experience gave her the courage and confidence she needed to socialise and get her life together, and now she’s engaged to be married to her Second Life husband, this time in real life.
So, is virtual love for real? Is cyber adultery the same as real adultery? Should Carolyn’s husband be jealous of an avatar? Should Carolyn go for treatment for online addiction? Should Second Life marriages be legalised? Or perhaps this last one is pushing it…Well, what do you think?