Our New Virtual Reality Social Life

Social Communicative Aspects of ICT

Admit it or not, our social life has become more and more virtual, however, seemingly real at the same time. 

Now we invite friends to a party on Facebook, not by phone, let alone sending invitations; we create avatars on Second Life and simulate the real life, good or bad, even getting married and giving birth; we socialize heavily on social media, chat on WhatsApp/ WeChat, while still playing our phones at a real F2F gathering.

Here is a documentary film on Second Life, depicting how the virtual life has affected people’s life and its dark sides. Tell me what you think after watching it!

It is not uncommon for people to spend tons of money on virtual in-game goods. I myself have spent $10 or so on a game called Tribez where I built my own villages. I have a friend who can spend $150 on a single dress for her avatar in a dancing online game. Appalled as you may be at first, you may soon understand the psychology behind this, say, the need of “esteem” and “self-actualization”, and how companies take advantage of it to make money. But often the question is, why do people feel “stupid” after they purchase the virtual goods?

From my point of view, people flock to SNS sites and SecondLife to fulfill the need of socialization and self-actualization. Some people might think their virtual husbands/wives who they never meet in real life actually are more important than their real life friends/partners. I believe it might happen, especially for those who are undergoing an unhappy marriage, but not for the majority. I believe the most of us rely on real relationships to fulfill our social needs.

The virtual social life can have two different results depending on the different natures. For sites like Facebook which are based on real life relationships, people usually strengthen or weaken their existing social ties. And the common phenomenon is that people who are already popular remains popular, and vice versa, thus leaving those unpopular people feeling less secure and achieved.

The second type of social life is anonymous and probably the main reason for people to be addicted to. It often creates an illusion that you are so popular and you can achieve things you cannot even imagine in real life. For example, a bad-looking girl in reality can create a sexy, beautiful avatar in a game, dress up using real money and attract many suitors and finally find her “true love”.

However, in my opinion, it doesn’t always look so good. The more you socialize in the virtual world, the more obsessed you are with your perfect avatar, the more upset you will feel when you are back in the real world, thus creating a vicious cycle which draws you deeper into the virtual world.

So, in conclusion, do we want to submerge into a virtual world and feel good about ourselves or do we want to face the brutal reality?

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