2nd life


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2nd life

  1. 1. Drew Dondelinger<br />Writ 1133<br />Assignment 2<br />Facescreen<br />Howard Rheingold and Neil Postman agree that the relatively new fad of online communities is changing society as we know it. Secondlife, Facebook and other social sights allow people to have a social experience beyond real life. Facebook focuses on sharing, talking and interacting with friends primarily not in your vicinity. Facebook is just a way to convey your real life and share it with friends, while Secondlife, gives people to opportunity to completely “start over” and create a new online life. Rheingold believes that online community interaction will ultimately benefit society in general, especially online. Postman however argues that ultimately technology and online interaction will have an overall negative impact on society. Based on Postman’s theory of negative impact I will test the negative impacts of online communities, specifically online communities have created a society that is increasingly based solely on computer interaction and not face to face human contact. Because online interaction is “easier, more convenient and better” in the opinion of many twentieth century leaders the next generation, the “technoration” to quote Jeffery Gitomer, is becoming very inhuman and exceedingly worse at face to face interaction and real world communication. <br />The foundation of my argument starts with the invention of pen and paper, the first organized way to relay a message not communicated directly. Only the most naïve, and quite frankly, crazy people would argue that the invention of pen and paper was a negative for society, on the contrary it may have been one of the single most important innovations of human history. However just like any type of technological innovation it was advanced on hundreds and thousands of times over, to where we currently stand with texting, IM, email, Facebook and even Secondlife. Postman alluded to the fact that technology has begun and has the potential to completely take over and run our lives. If we haven’t quite reached the point where technology is running our lives, I would argue that we are on the brink, and that our technology, specifically online communities, has drastically impacted our lives. <br />If you watch any television after ten o’clock, you’ve probably seen at least one, but more likely hundreds of commercials for “phone chat” companies where you can call to talk to “attractive singles in your area.” I’ve personally known people who call and truly interact on these chat lines, and they brag and boast about all of the hot girls they’ve met on phone lines and even become Facebook friends with some of them! However when a 3D girl approaches one of these people in real life they often turn red, get flustered, stumble over their words and get laughed at. This is just a fact of part of our society and proof that technology has been impacting real society. Lavalife, Livelinks and Tango are all examples of phone chatting, how about EHarmony, match.com and chemistry.com? These companies advertise that because it is so hard to date and because life is so busy, they can help and do the dating for you. That is a huge effect on society, ask someone from your grandparents’ generations about their opinions on this issue and more importantly if they ever envisioned dating through a computer screen. Whether you believe this is a good thing or not there is no debate as to whether it has had a great effect on society, explicitly that overall society is becoming less personal and more face to screen interaction. <br />I will be using my experiences and conversations in Secondlife along with some insight from Facebook users. I have a Secondlife account and have begun immersing myself into the culture. To measure and get meaningful information out of Secondlife I will need not only to be a random person walking around but I will have to befriend other people and develop a relationship where people respect me enough to talk to and give personal information. I would plan to set out looking for information like, what do people do in Secondlife? What do they do in “Firstlife”? How many people to you communicate with regularly in each society? Do you find experiences simpler? Do you find it easier to be outgoing in either situation? Which life do you spend more time socially? This type of information would lead me to a better understanding of why people use Secondlife and more importantly how their Secondlife relates to the real life.<br />To gather information about Facebook I will have to draw on others’ experience. I have no personal Facebook experience, but from past observation my information will look towards the difference between friends on Facebook and friends in real life. Some people have upwards of a million friends on Facebook and my initial feeling tells me that those people aren’t friends with all of those people in real life. My guarantee would be that in general people interact far more, both in number of people and amount of time, on Facebook than in real life. Types of questions I will ask Facebook users will be geared toward finding out the difference between how often, why and with whom users interact with. I will do this both by inquiring regular users of Facebook and by exploring the world myself by using a Facebook profile to explore the new world myself. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many of those friends do you interact with regularly via Facebook? How many of those friends do you regularly interact with face to face? Do you have friends on Facebook you’ve never met in person? Do you find it easier to communicate socially with people face to face or on Facebook? How much time do you spend on Facebook versus socializing face to face? I will interview a few subjects and try to find other general statistics about Facebook in addition to my observations to contradict my hypothesis.<br />Through my interaction on Secondlife I learned a lot about the culture and also about the people of Secondlife. One of the biggest things I noticed was that the users of Secondlife are a proud people that identify with their social network. Many people became defensive at first when I asked them about the difference between their Secondlife and their real life, most interviewees were taken aback at first and then came back on the attack by responding with something close to, “What are you talking about? Are you saying Secondlife isn’t real?” This feeling of having to defend their site and opinion that Secondlife is real was common among users. I interviewed around twenty-five avatars in Secondlife, with varying times of interviewing because often if a question offended someone, or if they felt I was a waste of time they would just fly away. I talked to people in a very diverse group of places, everywhere from a baseball game to an art gallery, someone at the roller disco and even someone at the strip club. On average Secondlife users said they spend between two and five hours a day interacting in their 3D online community, with a range from half an hour to ten hours a day. The majority of users actually do similar activities in Secondlife that they engage in real life, however with some exciting activities they’ve never done in real life. The reason for this was almost always because respondents found it easier and safer to try out a fantasy in Secondlife rather than doing it in real life, users agreed that it may be awkward in person but very easy given a computer screen. In general most Secondlife users said they met entirely new people in Secondlife and their friends in Secondlife were hardly ever their friends in real life. In fact no one I talked to said they have ever gone beyond Secondlife and actually met or had a conversation with any of their Secondlife friends in real life. Eight of the twenty-five responders admitted that Secondlife is a bigger part of their social life than time they spend actually interacting with people. <br />My Secondlife experience was eye opening to me. People said they have completely different friends on Secondlife than in reality, which means Secondlife gives you the opportunity to expand your social network it often isn’t used in that way. Instead Secondlife seems to be an activity based community. There is no arguing that Secondlife is a community, the definition of community is ambiguous in itself, and if Secondlife users believe they are part of a community then they are. I would agree that Secondlife at least gives the opportunity to create and be a part of an online community where you can meet people, hang out and have ongoing meaningful conversation. However in my experience that’s not how users put the site to work, instead on the aggregate it seems like people simply go there for something to do and never build anything out of it. When you ask an avatar why they use Secondlife you would most likely get an answer related to, “Because” or “Cuz it’s here.” Not many meaningful, relevant actions come out of Secondlife. Interaction occurs solely from behind a computer screen and hardly ever expands from that. <br />All of this supports my hypothesis and Postman’s ideas because this example of an online community does not benefit society, but rather is just an activity. Mr. Postman’s hypothesis is supported by this evidence and social site in general; this site I would argue is damaging to society because there is no societal benefit and is therefore just an activity for fun. While fun can be beneficial to societal needs in this case I (and I assume Mr. Postman would agree with me) would consider spending excess amounts of time on this site is a waste of time and therefore a waste of money. Time is money and a waste of time and money can be labeled as inefficiency, both threatening to take over society without benefit and destroy face to face real life society.<br />While I don’t personally have a Facebook account I was able to find many of the over 410 million people that do and interview five of them. My sample wasn’t pleasing to me because it consisted of five college aged users, but at least I feel it’s a good range of taste of my generation’s use of Facebook. All of my interviewers admitted to spending at least an hour, most of them were more, on Facebook every day. Just to put that into perspective that’s about 365 hours a year, which equates to over 15 full days of time spent on Facebook every year. Of the people I interviewed the group had a range of between 431 and 1,496 friends, one of the most shocking things to me when gathering this specific statistic was not the sheer numbers but that three of the five subjects knew their exact number of friends without even looking online. When I asked, “Are you sure?” They opened up their profiled and proved my skepticism wrong. I found this astonishing, but when I asked how or why they knew that off the top of their heads, I got the same look I get when I tell someone I don’t have a Facebook. Kids nowadays can memorize all 150 Pokémon or the number of Facebook friends they have but not the US Presidents or acquaintance’s names. While browsing this site one of my main observations was what a “friend” really entitles, a friend in Facebook means that a person requested you as a friend and you hit the accept button. Most of the people you “friend” are friends you know in real life, but not all of them, often they’re people who have mutual friends with you or just other random people. Every person I interviewed admitted to having friends on Facebook that they don’t know and have never met; the average per interviewee was 27. Of the hundreds of friends each interviewee only consistently communicates with between ten and twenty-five of those friends on Facebook. Of all the Facebook “friends” each interviewee only regularly communicates face to face with five to ten of them. <br />This would seem at first to support my hypothesis if out of hundreds of friends there is only regular face to face communication with five to ten people. With this evidence it seems like the online social network of Facebook is becoming the main reliant for college social interaction, however every respondent said their face to face real life social activities are far more important than their online social life. However another constant comment was that Facebook is a huge part of their social life and they couldn’t imagine their lives without Facebook. One of the biggest uses of Facebook is connecting with and staying in contact with people you can’t regularly communicate or lost contact with over the years; this is the reason I find this site refutes my hypothesis. Even though the average user spends aggregately over 15 days on Facebook and only communicates with 5% of friends face to face, Facebook can be socially beneficial. For example college students are increasingly leaving home to go to school; this I believe is in large part thanks to the advancement in technology, specifically cell phones and online social communication, first MySpace and now dominantly Facebook. Of the five interviewees two are from California, one from Minnesota, one from Missouri and one from Connecticut. Each notes that most of their Facebook friends are friends from high school and their home town that they want to keep in contact with when they started their new journeys. Also one interviewee was able, only through Facebook, to find his best friend from middle school who moved away before high school and reconnect with him. Facebook does have some very useful social tools, but it is also shows evidence for my hypothesis. Two friends live on the same floor of a dorm building, their rooms are about 35 feet from each other, and when they want to have a conversation, they both log on to Facebook. Instead of walk 35 feet and give the other person the satisfaction of their sole attention, both prefer using Facebook to communicate, because it’s “easier” and “you can do other things at the same time.” This was the biggest support of my hypothesis, talking over the computer is easier than walking 35 feet and talking face to face, and you can’t give another person the respect to talk directly to them because you can get other things done while talking to them? An older gentleman would likely find this offensive and a hunch tells me your boss wouldn’t appreciate your logic. Another piece of evidence I uncovered to support my hypothesis, while trying to disprove my hypothesis, had to do with the picture sharing aspect of Facebook. Users all admitted to spending a significant amount of time browsing through pictures on their attractive female friends’ profiles and looking for beach pictures and commenting. I asked if they would ever seek out and observe girls on the beach and comment on them to their face. No. Again this is just the differences between online communication and real life.<br />I view my experiences as two separate examples. I feel my experience in Secondlife was confirmative to both my hypothesis and Mr. Postman’s ideas. The site was not social beneficial and threatened to turn people’s social lives totally electronic where they would eventually completely lose the ability to communicate in the real world, slowly taking over and destroying society. Facebook however seems to be more of a supplement rather than replacement to social life. Facebook has beneficial qualities and communication in Facebook is most often derived around or about real life, not threatening to take over society. While Facebook may be contributing to the face to screen relationship, as I’m dibbing it, it seems to be more beneficial than hurtful, however this correlation depends completely on the individual’s choice of how to use Facebook. As for Mr. Postman’s hypothesis I would denounce it if it had to be taken summative because of the evidence from Facebook that suggests real world societal growth. However Mr. Postman’s ideas do hold true in many cases. My initial hypothesis was that online social sites are ruining real world communicational skills, and I believe this is partially true, there certainly seems to be evidence for both sides. The argument I would add to Mr. Postman’s ideas is that it is not social sites nor technology that threatens to capture, manipulate and control society; but rather the people using the technology. Technology is a tool by man and for man, and though technology has developed it is still a tool man controls. That being said guns are a tool controlled by man as well and they have become destructive to society and man itself. However guns are not to blame nor is the technology but the choices man makes on how to use each, and specifically how man abuses each. If used to further your social life in the real world or find lost friends or keep up with friends you’ve parted ways with it can be very beneficial. But if used to have a conversation with someone down the hall from you or to just browse for hours on end Facebook can have a negative impact on society. Secondlife has the same basic potential as Facebook, however at basic nature Facebook is set up for man to make more constructive choices with it. My new hypothesis for myself and Mr. Postman would be the same; that technology and online social worlds have the potential to corrupt and harm society, but rather technology gives man yet another way to abuse his tools and destroy society himself. Technology can be useful and benefit society but it is ultimately man’s choices that will destroy society, technology is just another possible tool for the job. <br />