“Real often acts as a synonym for offline, and does not imply a privileged ontological status: ‘online worlds are [not] spaces in which we simply work out offline issues and once sorted, happily leave… What happens in virtual worlds often is just as real, just as meaningful to participants.’” Tim Boellstorff, Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human.
I read that passage over lunch today and hadn’t really appreciated the extent to which Niko and I had separate lives.
Niko currently lives above a small cafe overlooking an ocean. I live in the state of Iowa, located about as far from an ocean as one can possibly get on this continent. Niko is single; I am married with kids. He smokes, I don’t. My friends don’t know him, have never met him and probably never will meet him. His friends, on the other hand, don’t know me. Oh, they know that I exist, but they don’t have any shared experiences with me or want to do anything with me. It’s not me who is racing around with them on a jet ski or hanging out playing pool, it’s him.
To be fair, we do have three good friends-in-common (defined to mean that I have their cell numbers in my phone and Niko has them on his friends list): Dr. Deb Wise/Flameheart Sol, Todd Tevlin/Esch Snoats and Bryan Baker/Kaklick Martin. There are a handful of other acquaintances that would have my email address (and not Niko’s—yes, he has his own email account, Reverbnation page, and Twitter and Google+ and Facebook accounts) and would also be friends with Niko. For the record, though, it should be noted that all of these were his friends first and then got to be my friends later.
To some extent, I think one could claim I’m suffering from a digitally induced dissociative identity disorder, a condition that I just made up but frankly seems to fit. The symptoms of dissociative identity disorder (DID), currently set forth at DSM-IV-TR §300.14, requires “[t]he presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self) and “at least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.” If I am being truthful, I’d have to admit that on more than one occasion Niko has me stay up later than I should or remain online helping him rearrange furniture at his place when I am supposed to be doing the housekeeping at mine.
Why this has come up now has a lot to do with this blog. My original intention was to use this blog as a form of online journal about my return to Second Life, detailing and discussing the various differences between the state of Second Life at this moment in time as compared to what it was back when I was a more active participant. As things are developing, however, I realized that I overlooked one essential factor: Niko himself.
In fact, let’s face it. To my knowledge not a single one of you reading this came to it because of me. You’ve all came to it because of him. As of the date of this post, there are 59 subscribers to this blog but I doubt that any of them know just me. They all know him. Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with it but it certainly raises an interesting question: whose blog is this, anyway?
The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that in many ways this blog needs to reflect the story of both of us. It is, in part, the story of how I am returning to Second Life after taking an absence. On the other hand, it is also the story of Niko. He hasn’t taken a leave of absence from Second Life. Things have gone on in his life as well. Some of them I know about, others I frankly don’t. Friends of his are no longer around, places he once used to go are gone, and he hasn’t written a song about his world for quite some time.
I think it is time that he tell you why.