It's been a while since I've written about Second Life. Like, over a year and a half. I think.
It's not that I've forgotten. It's a hot topic on many of the Methodists blogs I read. And I like what they have to say. As long as there is a community, online or in the physical world, there is a need for a Christian presence.
But I heard something that took me back to some of my earlier discussions (leave it to NPR). In a discussion of the "virtual world", the issue of marriage in Second Life was brought up. People, some married in the real world, others single, are getting married.
One of the arguments for this is that on the site, you get to know people for who they are. Thus, love in SL is somehow more real than love in the real world. No distractions of race, age, gender, disability, etc. At the same time, though, and what the piece failed to mention, is the ease with which you can claim to be someone else in this virtual world (or any, be it a message board, World of Warcraft, etc.). All it takes is a little imagination and a descent memory. Which isn't entirely bad. It can be fun to be somebody else.
But then comes the other person, who falls in "love" with this fake person. Those emotions can be very real and very hurt.
And then there are the married people. Who get married to someone other than their real spouse in SL. The emotional investment inherent in a marriage, even a virtual one, can be just as damaging to a relationship as adultery. Some might even call it adultery.
Don't get me wrong. I know that there are people who take all forms of social interaction, be it a coffee date or Second Life, too seriously (or not seriously enough). And I know I shouldn't let those people ruin the form of interaction.
Which is probably why the presence of Christian churches in SL are so important - the emotions are real, the relationships are real, and the grace of Christ is real.