Archive for November, 2007

Pitfalls of romantic relationships in a virtual world.

November 27, 2007

Pitfalls of romantic relationships in a virtual world.


I have been attending discussions held in the virtual world Second Life for a while now. A couple of weeks ago I attended one that centered on a couple that had been together a year. In the real world that is not a big thing but in Second Life where most romantic relationships last only a couple of months, it attracted a lot of attention. As I sat through yet another discussion of relationships in a virtual world, I heard many of the same things I have heard at countless other discussions. A major pitfall of online relationships is that it allows people for the most part, to stay in a fantasy. One can allow their ego and id to run wild. You can try to recreate that time in your life when you were free from major responsibilities and experiencing the excitement of romance. Those golden late teen and early twenty years. Or you can become your perfect alter ego. With the ideal body and looks you can never have in real life. You can create that emotional high that results in the production of neurotransmitters known for pleasure which are released for natural pain control, and are chemically similar to heroin and pain medication. One can literally experience a romantic high.


Unfortunately, seeking this romantic high may prevent the development of deep friendships, mutual trust, meaningful communication, etc. These are all parts of a relationship that lead to lasting relationships. In a virtual world you can experience, share and experience, and/or communicate. To me, people seeking the romantic high seem to share similar traits with people seeking virtual sex. Both are seeking experiences that will result in a HIGH for them personally. When the experience no longer results in a HIGH then they move off to find a new experience that will result in a HIGH. They are not really looking for true relationships with all the aspects that would go along with a relationship. They are only seeking personnel satisfaction.


In a real relationship, virtual or real life, one will notice idiosyncrasies about the other person in the relationship, that the person is messy, or has a bad habit that they do not like. Such idiosyncrasies only interfere with the desired experience. This may explain why I am now noticing people who either actively are seeking a certain type of experience in Second Life. I can now purchase an experience that matches my fantasy. Or I can fill the role in someone else’s fantasy for a fee. I do not have to have a real relationship. If I have the money I can buy the relationship I desire. What was only available to the wealthy in real life, buying your fantasy relationship, is now affordable to middle class Americans. What long term results this will have on society I do not know. Virtual worlds are really just beginning and only a small percentage of the Internet community participates in them. However, being 47 years old and watching the development of whole new technologies, I can see that the immersive world’s produced by 3-D technology such as Second Life offer the possibilities for impacting America culture in a totally new way.


If you have opinions please comment.


Thoughts from a discussion on Romance in Second Life

November 27, 2007

My wife attended a discussion on romantic relationships in Second Life a week or so ago. I have been spending time with family and have just gotten around writing about it. First I should clarify that my wife and I are both in our 40’s and this was the first time she has ever attended any type of discussion in Second Life. To her Second Life is just some type of role playing game that people, myself included, take too seriously. Fortunately for me she is willing to help me on my “Romantic Picnic Project”. Although I did have to bribe her with breakfast at her favorite restaurant.


So back to the discussion, my take on my wife’s impression was that the women were really looking for a more immersive romance novel. Many of them have true relationships in Second Life that are not romantic. The relationships seem to be more like ones may make on a brief meeting such as a business trip or vacation and continue through letters and/or email.


The romance part seemed to be more role playing. Building a fantasy such as recapturing that first teenage romance. Taking that trashy romance novel that you have reread ten times and trying to create your favorite parts in Second Life. I have been in Second Life enough to understand this. My wife was surprised by how drawn in women were emotionally with what to her was just role playing. It was hard for my wife to appreciate the emotional energy that was put into the romance and then the breakup. I tried to explain the emotional high that the romance in Second Life can create along with the crash that comes when it ends. Having not been in a Second Life myself I had to use examples of others I have talked to. This probably explains the strange look my wife gave me along with “OK”. It is hard to explain to someone who has not spent time in Second Life that for some people it really is a Second Life.


The subject of stalking came up in the discussion also. My wife was surprised about this aspect of Second Life. Some of the young women have had men try to stalk them in Real Life. Being 47, over weight and balding my wife is not worried about me being stalked. However, she was a little surprised with how easy it was to use email and the Internet to identify who you really are.  In Second Life there is a high level of anonymity. This leads to behavior in Second Life that one may never do in Real Life. The anonymity is only lost when you willingly give information to someone. Like sending them pictures, etc. If the example of the stalkers is true then it would seem to me that some men are also creating fantasies that they are then trying to take into the Real World. Second Life is a world where you can be perfect. Unfortunately, this perfection can not be transferred to the Real World. In the real world we may be over weight, unattractive, etc. The Real World has warts no matter how much we may wish they did not exist.


Second Life is a world where our alter egos can run free. The fantasy of romance can thrive, and we can achieve that which we can’t in the Real World. Or those who don’t have a wife who reminds them that it is just a role playing game 🙂

Wine with no headaches or nausea?

November 5, 2007

Persian poet Omar Khayyam is quoted as saying, “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” Many a romantic picnic today still follows this sound advice. However, for some people wine still causes headaches and nausea. Research has linked a wine’s tyramine level to headaches and nausea. Tyramine’s are produced in the fermentation process. Now a group of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have come up with a device to determine tyramine levels in minutes as opposed to the hours it took other machines. Recordnet has nice article on it. It may be possible in the near future to look at the wine label and buy wines low in tyramine. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou” with no headache or nausea. What a great improvement to the oldest idea of a romantic picnic.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam  Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- And Wilderness is Paradise enow.  "How sweet is mortal Sovranty!"--think some: Others--"How blest the Paradise to come!" Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest; Oh, the brave music of a distant Drum!

Defining romance in a virtual world.

November 2, 2007

In this Blog I would like to look at two other postings. “Is a virtual affair real-world infidelity?” posted on MSNBC and one about “real relationship and the transference relationship” which was a short comment in self-help magazine. The first one covered people having affairs in a 3-D virtual world called Second Life. Two interesting points where made in it. Women are more likely to see such activity as infidelity then men are. This is really not surprising when you look at different studies that have been done on infidelity. Men seem to report higher levels of infidelity then women doe in most cultures in real life. The second interesting thing is the level of emotional involvement that a 3-D virtual world allows one to experience. I think experience is the key word here. Never before could you share experiences with another person at such a level without being in with that person. These shared experiences are can also be very emotional.


Here is where the second Blog comes in, the real relationship and the transference relationship. Transference relationship is a known issue in psychology. One may not really love their therapist, etc. but the emotions related to the transference relationship can be very real. This posting makes a case that Second Life can allow for this same type of relationship. This makes sense when you think of the level of reality you can now experience. The experience itself can be very attractive. One can seek the romance, attention, respect that they do not receive in the real world in the virtual world of Second Life. One may not even realize that they are doing this because they may not really understand what is missing in their real life until they find it in their Second Life.

 The MSNBC Blog depicted several sad situations where real life couples ended their relationships. In one case Second Life allowed a woman to realize what she wanted in a real life relationship. I believe that should be the important take away of the first Blog. If you find yourself seeking romance in Second Life, is it because you are seeking something that you cannot obtain in your real life relationship? If that is the case one has to ask oneself, why! That also leads to the hard question of, now that you know what is missing how can you fill this missing part in your real world relationship? The answer to these two questions may become very important to you if you play with romance in the virtual world.

Impact of community building on romance?

November 2, 2007

An interesting trend is taking place in the Web 2.0 world and it has an impact on romance. This is community building. Back in 2003, coined the term nethoods to describe an emerging trend: “neighborhoods, streets and even apartment buildings are starting to get their own internet and intranet sites: not just to promote the many qualities they have to offer their (prospective) inhabitants, but also to provide communal interaction and localized services.” Springwise has pointed out  a new company  “LifeAt is a private social network for your building which allows you, the resident, to actively contribute and improve upon your residential experience.” This is just another example of community building that is taking place on the Internet. As more and more of these communities develop they will enhance some real life communities or compete with some real life communities for time and resources.
So what does this have to do with romance? Well I am finding that men and women are joining specific communities. They join based on a number of reasons, which is an interesting study in itself.  However, because of their interactions within these Internet communities they are developing romantic relationships.
This is not really a new thing. This was observed in chat rooms years ago. What is new is that some of these new communities are functional communities with rules, culture, morals, etc. The romantic relationships that develop are not just simple one on one relationships anymore. The romantic relationships now take place within the dynamic of the community. One has to think about the reactions of others to ones romantic relationships. Can it be kept private from the community? What will others in the community say about this romance? There can also be impacts when a romantic relationship ends. Will there be consequences within the community? Yes, life on the Internet has gotten a lot more complicated.

When it comes to romance, experience is what really matters.

November 2, 2007

Start with the ideal experience people would like to have, and design everything around producing that desired experience! This is the message in a nutshell from Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path. Check out his UK presentation on Slideshare. Peter presents a very good explanation of this concept. (Plus to Futurelab for letting me know about this excellent presentation.) Watch his presentation and then think of all the money the travel industry spends on romantic vacations. How many of these push location, then features in the vacation package. How few of them really focus on what really matters, the romantic experience! Think of all the money spent on romantic vacations, romantic foods, romantic items that you have spent over your lifetime. How many of them really delivered or helped deliver the romantic experience you really desired? If you follow Peter’s presentation you can see how much better these could have been if the desired romantic experience was really understood and everything else was designed around producing this experience. Many times people try to take what may already exist and package it as ROMANTIC because it sells. I blogged a while back about how people do not buy products but purchase the ability to do something. For example, this Thanksgiving my wife and I will go shopping and buy a Turkey, Dressing, Cranberries, etc. We will not be purchasing these items as themselves. We will be purchasing the ability to have the Thanksgiving experience that we desire. You can look at your romantic experience the same way. The romantic vacation site, the package of dinners, sites, etc, the items you will take along really only have meaning when you think of the romantic experience that they will enable you to obtain. For when you really think about it, it does not matter if it is romance in the real world or romance in a virtual world, it will be the experience that you will remember.