By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
I have a second life – thanks to the up-and-coming online craze, Linden Lab’s Second Life, a virtual universe that allows consumers to create the life of their dreams.
After reading an article in World Magazine’s Sept. 22 issue about the phenomenon, I created an account to investigate.
A basic account is free to first-time users, but World reported many users navigate with several personalities, called avatars.
My avatar, Brigitte Auebauch, joined avatars run by “gammers, housewives, artists, musicians, programmers, lawyers, firemen, political activists, college students, business owners, active duty military overseas, architects and medical doctors, to name just a few,” according to www.secondlife.com.
While the program initially reminded me of The Sims, this parallel universe’s mass appeal to adults strikes a new chord of disturbing.
The game casts light on the misery plaguing many behind apparent success, allowing an online “second life” to seduce more than 8 million users, according to World.
Before Brigitte entered the virtual world, dollar signs and business opportunities advertised success. Even in this parallel existence, the successful are marked by property, business ownership and appearance.
“Shopping is a big part of the Second Life experience for many residents,” according to the Web site.
Once in Second Life, users can enhance their appearance. Although the superficial world disheartened me – especially because 8 million purposefully select such a lifestyle – its darker side nauseated me.
Divided into rated sections, Second Life’s mature rating areas harbor dark deeds.
World reported, “As corporations are trying to figure out how to profit in a virtual world, that world is being transformed by its users into a virtual red-light district, where pumped-up and curvaceous avatars act out their user’s sexual fantasies.”
In this horrifying district, World reported brothels and a “human trafficking mansion,” two of many sexually exploitive venues.
The mansion offers “forced prostitution, forced fantasy, sexual slavery and rape role-play,” according to the description.
Nothing better explains why sexual slavery, violence and money worship cripple our world than when people expose their desires in such a place.
At Second Life, users navigate without fear of recognition, without accountability and without, it would seem for some, any real conscience. But our hidden actions are the ones that truly dictate our integrity – a lack of consequences does not void the need for selfcontrol and pure action.
The site established the “Big 6” forbidden actions: intolerance, harassment, assault, disclosure, indecency (with a clause reminding users this particular sin does not apply to the “M” section) and disturbing the peace.
And in a valiant attempt to keep users ages 13 to 17 innocent, the Web site created an adult-free section.
However, Brigitte received access to all areas after I entered my birth date – and what 13-year-old can’t count to 18?
Brigitte has no money because I didn’t back her with my credit card number, so we spent some time exploring the site Sunday afternoon, joining 50,352 other residents.
A search for churches brought up Vegas-style wedding chapels, an abandoned church and a gothic graveyard.
A search for shopping, with the “M” content enabled, brought up the Bay Shore Mall, which boasts 18,777 visitors.
However, the “lovers’ playground” at the site, rated mature, reported 9,314,131 visitors. Sickening.
Through that same search, I could have “teleported” Brigitte to a nude beach, a XXX nightclub or an adult theater.
Users created this dark world – users who live in the real world. If 8 million people want a second chance at life, clearly the church has allowed the message of Christ to wither among stronger cultural messages. And clearly, it is continuing to do so as horrific deeds permeate not only the virtual, but also the real, world.
It’s virtually heartbreaking.