it’s time to pull the plug on second life

You try to talk to someone or bring them a drink, and they’ll be having sex with a cartoon.” —A woman interviewed in the “Wall Street Journal” about her husband, Ric Hoogestraat, a fellow who has recently taken a second wife in the online world of Second Life

Are you ready for a test? I’m going to briefly describe two men. Can you tell me which is the real Ric Hoogestraat?

Identity 1:
Formerly sold herbs and essential oils at renaissance fairs, now makes $14 an hour as a call center operator.

Identity 2:
Lingerie-designing strip club owner worth $1.5 million.

OK, can you guess which is his real identity and which is the one he created in Second Life?

Are you ready for the answer?

Here’s a clip from the article.

…Before discovering Second Life, Mr. Hoogestraat had bounced between places and jobs, working as an elementary schoolteacher and a ski instructor, teaching computer graphics and spending two years on the road selling herbs and essential oils at Renaissance fairs. Along the way, he picked up a bachelor’s degree in education from Arizona State University and took graduate courses in education and instructional technology at the University of Wyoming and the University of Arizona. He currently works as a call-center operator for Vangent Inc., a large corporation that outsources calls for the government and private companies. He makes $14 an hour….

In the virtual world, he’s a successful entrepreneur with a net worth of about $1.5 million in the site’s currency, the linden, which can be earned or purchased through Second Life’s Web site at a rate of about 250 lindens per U.S. dollar. He owns a mall, a private beach club, a dance club and a strip club. He has 25 employees, online persons known as avatars who are operated by other players, including a security guard, a mall concierge, a manager and assistant manager, and the “exotic dancers” at his club. He designs bikinis and lingerie, and sells them through his chain store, Red Headed Lovers…

Shocking, right?

I wonder if anyone chooses to work at a call center inside Second Life, and, if so, if they’re really successful strip club owners just looking for an escape from all the sex and money, and the headaches that come along with them.

Maybe the big energy crash that’s coming isn’t necessarily a bad thing after all. We had our fun. We were given every opportunity in the world to do something great, and this is what we chose. Now, I think, the time has come for us collectively to take the walk of shame back to the farm. If we stay on this course, people won’t be leaving their homes in another twenty years. We’ll be super-sized, gelatinous blobs, fused to our couches, kept alive on corn syrup pumped through McTubes and a constant stream of virtual reality sex calibrated to play on our individual fetishes up to a point just short of heart failure. I know that’s enticing, but I think it might be time to smash the computers and walk away while we still can. And, if we can’t manage to do it on our own, I hope the lights begin to dim before we’ve grown too fused to our furniture.

Goodnight, my invisible friends.

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  1. anthro major
    Posted August 12, 2007 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    We were truly much more healthy when we were hunting and gathering.

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    I just got back from vacation. Camping. Tents it seems, are dinosaurs. How addicted we are to consumption becomes pretty vivid sitting amongst great lakes and cedar trees surrounded by campers sounding radios and satellite TV well past curfew. It becomes even more impressing at rustic “non-electric” sites where you now fall asleep to the heavy snore of generators powering tiki lights and playstations.

    One night, a little desperate, I walked a ways along the shore trying to find a place of plain black horizon. I got itchy and gave up on the horizon and looked skyward for solace. Turns out, even the clear sky is littered with satellites.

    I’m probably just depressed because I’m going back to work tomorrow. But, we’ve made a mess of it. We’re sick and it feels terminal.

    All in all though, it was a good vacation. The water was cold. I pooped in the woods. I’ll probably sit at my work computer another year for the chance to sleep among the birch bark and extension chords again next August. If for no other reason, then to feel my daughter sobbing in my arms (as she did tonight) saying she didn’t want me to go back to work.

    I guess the affectionate embrace of sorrow makes it worth living with the disease.

  3. Posted August 13, 2007 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Ol’ East…I know what you mean about camping. Any public camping place completely ruins the experience. There needs to be no other humans in sight or hearing distance. Sometimes going hiking/biking/fishing/strolling around in the parks around here are just as good and more private.

    Mark…this was a great post. Second Life has intrigued me, but I spend too much time already on the computer to get involved. I’ve thought about a virtual record store, but it would be too complicated and overall just something wrong with the concept. I have a friend who worked for Nike, and they had a big presentation from Second Life about having a virtual store. I know some if not all of the big three auto makers market themselves heavily on Second Life. It’s just kind of sad – kind of like the “gamers” who spend 20 hours of their day playing computer video games, drinking caffeine and eating junk food.

    At least the good crisp fall weather will be coming soon. anthro major, sometimes I day dream about being able to be an early Michigan pioneer and settler. To hunt and fish and build houses and structures all day outside would be heaven.

    Technology is both a blessing and a curse.

  4. Robert
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    My avitar had a really great weekend. Mine was crappy.

  5. anthro major
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    A hearty INDEED! to that last sentence, Cousin’s Vinyl. Indeed.

  6. oliva
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Cousins Vinyl,
    You would have been a good neighbor back in the day, sounds like. I was reading a book from the YA room at the Ypsi library called Settling in Michigan and Other True Pioneer Stories, retold by Lynne Deur from first-person accounts of life back when. One of the more poignant moments was in a piece about the way the men would work together to build each other’s houses, rolling the heavy logs up leaning pieces of wood to get them up into place, with “four good axemen” in the corners to notch and fit the logs. But the poignant part was this: “Potawatomi Indians helped pioneers at houseraisings in the southwestern part of the state. I know of a time where only two white men were at a raising. The rest were Indians. They lifted cheerfully and rolled the logs with great strength” (Mr. A.D.P. Van Buren of Battle Creek, writing about life in Michigan in the early and mid-nineteenth century).

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