A few days ago I started defining romance. I laid out the most basic idea, that romance happens when two people naturally work at making one another happy. I concluded that the basic definition of romance is similar in both real life and in Second Life. This journal entry is about “attraction” or what is it that brings us together? And I think attraction is very different in SL than it is in RL.
In real life, when two people are drawn together there are a lot more variables at play than in SL, not the least of which is chemistry. If you don’t believe in the chemistry of romance (pheromones, etc… and yes, I know there is little scientific research), read no further because I don’t think you’ll understand my point of view. Physical attraction is one thing, but chemistry is another and chemistry can bring people together who might not otherwise consider each other attractive. For me, chemistry is almost as important as physical appearance (more on this some other time). There are other factors in real life, like social position, wealth, etc., even charisma but these can be created or simulated within SL, so perhaps they are a neutral factor.
In Second Life, our initial attraction to one another is mostly physical. We have a resource that isn’t generally available in RL, avs can describe themselves in their profiles. Many peeps “surf profiles” because they give insights into an av’s interests and even into their personality. Even empty profiles tell a story, to me they suggest that a person is not really involved or is overly concerned about privacy. But still, most relationships start with a physical attractions — we know this! hehe.
The first big problem with SL romance is, almost everyone can be as beautiful or handsome as they want to be. It’s great being younger and more beautiful than you are in real life. Some of us purchase our look, some of us create it to a greater or lesser extent. The choices we make give an indication about our sense of beauty, so it’s up to each person to create the avatar that best represents who they want to be or who they think they are.
Some of us (me, for example) are willing to grant anyone the right to as young and beautiful or handsome as they like. In fact, I want the people I know to be as wonderful as they can possibly be. Unfortunately, beauty in SL is only one layer of pixels deep, and once you start chatting with someone, you start forming a mental picture who they are as a human being.
Regardless of how beautiful or handsome an avatar is, if you simply pay attention, you learn just how beautiful or handsome that person really is, and I mean long before you start chatting in voice, and regardless of the photo they post in “1st Life”. And I think most of us learn that many of the avs we meet seem to gravitate toward the level they live in real life even here in SL.
In the real world, beautiful people have a special advantage over everyone who is less attractive. We know this, especially women know about this. Beautiful women and handsome men have a natural gift that elevates their status. In Second Life, all of us can be as physically beautiful and this might be one reason that SL relationships are so fleeting.
I’ll continue exploring SL romance in the coming days. I’d like to figure out how we end up finding those qualities in one another that cause us to care for each other. As in attraction, there are many similarities to RL but there are twists.
PS: I forgot to acknowledge that there is a large percentage of SL residents and visitors who would prefer for all of us to use recreations of our real life appearances. This gets into the whole issue of Augmentation vs Immersion which my friend Beau pointed me to a few weeks ago.