Second Life

Hi everybody,
some years ago, while surfing the Internet, I came across the name "Second Life". I don’t remember exactly how or where I saw it, but I remember that I visited the website and wanted to register, but I had to give my credit card details and maybe even pay a fee or something, so I decided not to.
In 2006 I joined a Beppe Grillo meetup group and while I was going through the different meetups in the world, I noticed the "Second Life Beppe Grillo meetup group". I was pretty sure that none of the Grillo meetup groups would be based in a virtual world where people would have to pay to get in. It must be now free of charge, I thought. I checked the website again and indeed, I could register for free.
Here’s how it works:

First of all, you have to choose a name for your avatar. You can choose any first name you like but you have to pick a last name from a long list. Then, once you’ve registered, you have to install the software and that can be a big problem. Check the system requirements before installing it. 
When you log in for the first time, you will find yourself in Help Island, a place where you can learn to use SL, how to fly and teleport, you can choose your clothes, appearance, edit your profile and so on. You can also do different tutorials on the basics of SL. Once you leave Help Island, you cannot go back. If you need help, you can go to other public help islands to learn and practice.
I must say, I was very disappointed at the beginning once I left Help Island (at the time it was called Orientation Island). There is no main place where all new residents go, no main hall where you can meet everybody, a kind of starting point. However, there are many of them spread around the Second Life world. I also thought that there would be a map and you could actually walk around or move from place to place. Not really. The SL world map doesn’t resemble any normal real world map. It’s just an enormous puzzle of land slots, some very big, other very small, a kind of patchwork. Basically, you have to know exactly where you want to go. Well, I had a place, the only place I knew of, which was the "Second Life meetup group". That was the other big disappointment. I thought I would find a place where there were public meetings, discussions, information and so on, as in all other Grillo meetups. Instead, it was utter chaos: there was no real calendar of events, many people were flying around, singing, listening to music, shouting, just having fun.
I attended a few meetings but after some time I just stopped going there. Basically, there was no real connection between this group of people in SL and the meetup world.
The main problem for me is that most people I met there (and I think a lot of people who regularly visit SL anyway) don’t really use it as a means of communication, but as a real virtual world where they lead a second life, where they have a second identity. Many residents have property there, a job, daily activities and so on. Some have even changed sex in SL! So when you chat with these people you don’t really get to know anything about them, but only about their avatars. This is anyway the impression I had and what I also read about it. I didn’t really get to know anybody in SL, so I’m not talking by experience.
However, at the same time, I realized that this software was really a great technological breakthrough: here you can talk to people from all over the world, using video, chat notecards and voice, a world where you can recreate any kind of environment. You can organize meetings or conferences with many people at low or no costs. For example, every year I attend a big conference called SLanguages about teaching languages using online platforms or virtual worlds like SL, with so many people from many different parts of the world, connecting from the most different places like home, a hotel, a public place. This year it will take place at the end of May.
After some research, I also discovered that in SL there are many institutions helping people, for example people with disabilities or people who have gone through terrible traumas, like victims of violence or rape. It seems they are more able to talk about their experiences when they are on their own talking to a computer than in a self-help group or to a psychiatrist. There are also many institutions where you can go and attend courses, learn languages and many other things. There are many events every day, like live music concerts, conferences or just even meeting places with all kinds of people. So it’s a great world that we can use for many different purposes.
I sometimes go to SL and walk around, looking at the different landscapes, visiting new places. I am probably going to start teaching languages there soon. If you are already a SL resident or want to join, well, let me know, we can meet there and have a chat🙂
By for now,
Andrew

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