A relative mentioned a WSJ article indicating that 53% of women (and 40% of men) who use online games believe their online friendships are “equal or better than” their real-life friends. The article focused on Second Life.
My response “Oh, I have an avatar on Second Life” then instantly required explanation and defense. Each social networking option has its own aura of concern about impact on “real” relationships. There’s no question social networking sites have led to romance for an enormous number; but to paraphrase my favorite quote from the ASAE2007 conference, those sites can often be an extension of real life conversations, by people who already know each other or share a common organization. Business relationships happen online too. Real-life friends can be the same people as online friends.
I’m better at thinking about how to apply technologies to my own association when personally trying it. So I tried Second Life. In real-life I constantly multi-task – so it was easy to sit (as an avatar) in a virtual world outdoor theater watching a real-time television show and simultaneously talk about it with others (chat).
Associations can show videos in that same type theater while an instructor/expert answers student (avatar) questions via chat as it airs. Book clubs meet in Second Life. A facilitated discussion in the virtual world is an option for an association whose members want to participate without having to travel further than their computer. Communication via avatar is a fun way to talk and collaborate. Creating a basic avatar is free, but the quote to professionally customize an association office and video viewing center in Second Life is expensive.
By the way - although Second Life makes every avatar appear the same age - the avatar I customized (pic) has red hair, dresses like me, and carries coffee all the time – so what’s real and what’s not?