Today I woke up and realised it was exactly ten years since I discovered Secondlife, which has played a significant role in my life personally and professionally. I am aware Secondlife, despite being an early social network, still needs to be explained. It is basically a virtual world, without being a game, where anything is possible and the interpersonal interactions are the same as anywhere else.
When I first walked down the introduction hill on 4th May 2006, I had very little understanding of the huge impact this image being sent to my computer would have on my life. Within a few days I had somehow acquired a virtual wheelchair, the first of many, and promptly presented myself as a full time wheelchair user. This simply felt natural to me as it was a part of my identity. I therefore could not envisage the media attention this decision would bring internationally. From Canada’s CBC prime time news to BBC’s World Service, there was a period where I was bogged down with endless media requests as well as interview requests from students around the world. Academics around the world are still writing about my time in SL.
Within Secondlife there was and remains a strong nightclub scene with DJs and live music. All my peers were setting up and running nightclubs, so I wanted to build my own nightclub and make it the best I could. I called my club ‘Wheelies’ as a bit of a joke with my cp sense of humour, without realising the impact my ‘inworld’ activities had on the international media. I remember one time when my personal assistant answered a call from Russian TV when I was in the shower!
Secondlife was a place where I was not lonely during a very difficult time in my life and it gave me social contact any time of day in a manner that was emotionally real as anything else. I made so many friends and I had so many realistic experiences no one can take away from me. It was a place I could be myself without needing assistance from anyone else. I could be myself virtually when I was physically restricted.
The problem with Secondlife was and remains that it was too intensive, you had to give it 100% of your attention away from any other apps. In the multi-tasking world we live in with app messages flying all over the place, this is not ideal and so I think one main reason why Secondlife has never become mainstream.
After almost 10 years after launching Wheelies on 1st September 2006, I gave up the club to a new owner because I was simply paying for somthing I could not afford out of misplaced loyality. The platform has had its day and other projects have taken more priority in my life as I have focused on mainstream social media.
My experiences in Secondlife are important to me emotionally and professionally. It is a great shame mainstream society never understood fully the wonders of secondlife, like other social media platforms. There are always winners and losers, and Secondlife remains alive as a hobby for its many geeks.