Alice Cover Black
© 2017 Rebecca Sherman / Book cover created for Alice in Wonderland

My latest assignment for Media 145 is to watch and then comment on, LOGIN2LIFE, a 1 1/2 hour documentary about virtual reality worlds, mainly Second Life and World of Warcraft:

“Write a blog post about this film sharing your perspective of the positive aspects revealed: identity through your avatar, virtual relationships, real money from virtual work, or opportunities for the disabled.”

I am having conflicting reactions to this movie.  It’s got me thinking, questioning.

“Identity through your avatar” seems to mean styling your self as thin, beautiful or handsome, with big boobs (if female, though the men like over developed pecs, too), and lots of blond. Evidently, presenting yourself as you really are is of no interest.

“Virtual relationships” means a lot of pretend sex resulting in real masturbation. The big draw is porn and gaming. “Opportunities for the disabled” means they can pretend to be blond, booby and thin, too, with lots of fake sex.

Does this mean you are disappointed in ‘reality’? What happens when you engage with real people, with all their warts and shortcomings? Do you become anxious to get back to that perfect world of make believe?

I’m not against VR. It can be a useful training, learning and communicating tool. Disabled persons can use VR as a way of earning a living performing tasks on line, when they are unable to participate in a physical work place. However, the movie’s focus is on the need to escape from reality. Humans having been doing this for eons, with drugs and alcohol.

I want to Be Here Now, as Ram Dass said. I don’t want to escape life (ok, sometimes I do). I want to be more fully engaged with it. Real life is about energy – sensing, feeling, knowing, intuiting. I enjoy feeling the breeze on my cheek, inhaling the aroma of a spring day, feeling the ocean tide on my bare feet as I walk along the beach with my dog Sam, the warmth of emotions from real people.

Two of the lives the movie follows are of disabled people. VR affords them an escape from discomfort and loneliness. They do have real people in their lives that care for them and provide companionship. But, it isn’t enough.

The definition of the word ‘virtual’ is almost or nearly, but not completely. Not completely real, in other words, a figment of your imagination. When on my death bed do I want to look back and think, Oh yeah, I wish I had spent more time playing World of Warcraft? If you say yes, you are saying no to real life.