November 29, 2009 10 Comments
A couple of weeks ago the BBC published a piece about Second Life on their news website. The article itself was a fairly inoffensive statement of fact – in summary “Second Life? People used to talk about that a lot; now, not so much” – but it set off an entirely predictable flurry of indignation around the SL blogosphere. The prize for the most ridiculously hyperbolic comment goes to Hamlet Au at New World Notes:
The BBC’s recent magazine article, “What Happened to Second Life?” … is so incandescently bad, to read it is to feel the entire institution’s credibility undermined.
One can picture tribesmen in the jungle of Myanmar, hunched over their short-wave radio, wondering if they can still trust the BBC’s reports on the Naypyidaw junta after that hatchet job they did on SL.
Why do SL aficionados respond to even mild criticism by foaming at the mouth in a way that makes Leave Britney Alone Guy look like a model of calm and reason? (Not that I haven’t been guilty of this myself once or twice).
I suspect there may be some projective identification going on. Anxiety is generated by the conflict between the desire to express unconscious fantasy through the medium of virtual reality, and the internalised attitude of general society that such activity is not really what one expects of a grown adult; these desires are therefore split off into “bad” internal objects.
A threatening sense of dis-integration may be produced, which, if it cannot be contained within the ego (that is, if the subject is in the paranoid-schizoid position), must be projected into our perceived critics, who, we imagine, are persecuting us because they do not understand the value of our virtual experiences – though in reality it is actually we who cannot fathom why we want to spend time on such apparently pointless activity.
The vehemence of our response is mystifying to those outside the circle, who begin to regard partisans of Second Life with genuine bafflement, and not a little trepidation. Thus the defence creates its own reality, which may be effective in relieving our anxiety (as the conflict is perceived to be between ourselves and “bad” external objects, rather than being intra-psychic), but which sets the stage for a cycle of mutual misunderstanding and hostility.
Anyone who has worked through the depressive position should be able to tolerate the ambiguity related to being a fan of Second Life, both internal (I know it’s a bit silly, but I like it anyhow), and external (other people may think it’s silly, but it doesn’t make them bad). It helps to be honest with oneself about one’s motives for spending time on the grid, and to leave the rationalisation to the Lindens, who, after all, do have a business to run. The truth is that Second Life is like any other pastime; some people are into it, most people aren’t, but that’s cool, and certainly not worth getting all angry about.