Goofy Characters? Maybe from their perspective

The Washington Post published a snarky piece covering Tuesday’s Congressional hearing on online virtual worlds yesterday (Wednesday, April 2, 2008, A3) that, frankly, was disappointing to me and several others who frequent Second Life.  Dana Milbank consistently chose demeaning words (“cartoon-like characters”), irrelevant details such as the attire of the audience members, and exaggeration (“Another witness, Larry Johnson of the New Media Consortium, went so far as to proclaim that…”) to make the point: that this was somehow less than serious.  A time-waster.  A game.

Well perhaps to some people it is.  But to some people it isn’t.  For those of you that weren’t around these parts last July, let me tell you what I just told the Post, over on their online comments

Part of the attraction of Second Life is the social networking capability.  It’s true.  That’s a fair attack.  But it’s also a blessing.

Last summer, I was diagnosed with an agressive form of breast cancer at 34.  I was transformed from an active, happy, outgoing mom into a person who was very, very tired, losing my hair, and unable some days to even sit up.  Some days I couldn’t move.  My hair started falling out in clumps, and I knew I would soon be bald.  Many of my friends were going to a conference, and I couldn’t go after all.

Lucky for me, the conference was also being held in Second Life.  So I logged on, made an avatar, and decided to make her bald right away, to see how it would affect my interactions with people.  It was difficult, and there were a few thoughtless comments, but then, I learned how to handle it better and navigate the social scene as well as the conference sessions flawlessly.  By the end of the conference, I had new friends who didn’t care whether I had hair or not, whether I could walk and run like they did, or whether I was really homebound and very sick from the chemo.

As I progressed through my treatment for inflammatory breast cancer, I came to rely on Second Life less, but I will always be grateful for the virtual world and its caring denizens, who helped a sick young woman feel better about herself and return to health.

Shame on the Post for writing such a dismissive and snarky article; Second Life, like anything else, is a tool that can be used for fun, for work, for social networking, and for escapism from some very difficult days.

So while I personally haven’t been in-world in months, being able to attend BlogHer in Second Life last year while I was laid up due to chemo was absolutely incredible, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity. 

Edited to add: We lost Lydia Wessel in California to IBC today.  A member of the IBC list, along with her husband Mark, she fought valiently for 8 years after diagnosis until her body became overwhelmed and the treatments stopped working.  Her last treatment was on 2/14; she spent the next few weeks writing letters to her family, finishing a book about her childhood, cleaning out her closets, and making preparations.  She passed away on 3/16.  Godspeed, dear Lydia.  You will be missed.

6 Responses to Goofy Characters? Maybe from their perspective

  1. I haven’t read the WaPo article yet this morning, on my way now. Sigh, some people just don’t see the value when CLEARLY there is great value to many. I can’t wait to meet you in person this year-all while I run around with my headset on in SL.

  2. Nancy says:

    I’m pretty familiar with Second Life since my federal agency is one of the ones that’s investigating how it can be used for real-world endeavors. Sounds like both the Post and some of the members of Congress completely blew off the significance of SL and the innovative ways in which its being used, despite a legitimate agenda.

    Yet another reason for me to be skeptical of what the traditional media reports…

  3. Amelie says:

    Great that you could attend this way, I didn’t know this was possible (I admit I do live under a rock sometimes).
    Sorry to hear about Lydia.

  4. Becki says:

    It’s so easy, isn’t it, to ridicule what we don’t take the time to understand?

    My daughter is named Lydia. And while I hope she never has to battle cancer, I hope that she, too, will be courageous and a fighter. I’m so sorry another voice has been silenced.

  5. My condolences. Thinking of you.

  6. WhyMommy: My condolences for Lydia and her family.

    I don’t know if you’ll recall, but back in December, I ran a meme on my blog where I asked folks to participate and I would donate $5 to a charity of your choice. This came about as a result of a blog entry you posted titled “Truth.”

    I’m happy to report, we raised $200 and yesterday I delivered a check to Sue Thompson at Head Huggers in your name. Just thought you’d like to know!

    Warm regards,

    Janet Kincaid

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