On March 5, 2010 the authorities in South Korea arrested a married couple for criminal negligence causing the death of their infant daughter. The 41 year old husband and 25 year old wife had met online and spent the majority of their time in an Internet Cafe playing a game which ironically involved nurturing and protecting a child avatar, while their own infant was left unattended for up to twelve hours per day. The infant succumbed to malnutrition and the highly publicized arrest lead to open discussion in South Korea over the growing problem of internet addiction.
What is interesting is how quickly the culprit is sought out and blamed for the tragedy. The couple is only marginally vilified compared to the revelation that a virtual world was to blame for the death of a child. The couple’s emotional stability is assessed only in relation to the ability of the internet to detach individuals from their primary reality allowing the misfortune to occur.
There is no personal liability in this approach. No blame for the parents who chose to engage themselves to excessive and unreasonable amounts of recreation at the expense of caring for their child. Why not? If the recreation had been anything other than a virtual world or online gaming, the blame would have squarely landed on the irresponsibility of the adults.
This is the dark kind of story that sells to the public en mass. But where is the personal accountability for this? Does the internet have some mysterious power to remove free choice from the equation?
To those who have never ventured into a virtual world these kind of stories can create a degree of fear that might permanently inhibit their desire to explore any online social platform. But in defense of online communities there is a great deal of good that occurs on line in virtual worlds such as Second Life.
For a writer looking to network and collaborate with other writers from around the world, there is no better place to begin than Second Life, a virtual world that allows you to move in a realistic two dimensional environment where you can host live spoken word performances, original theater productions, writers workshops and much more.
Free Universities offering a variety of educational opportunities and classes in photography or languages are frequently offered and provide an excellent opportunity to turn online time into a beneficial learning outcome.
Virtual worlds offer the ultimate social media experiences allowing the user to emote (express emotions digitally) by using animation gestures such as hugs, kisses and even dancing. Some people acknowledge that dating online can be difficult and wrought with risks while meeting someone in a virtual world environment and given the opportunity to speak in real time, dance, explore and learn together might offer an enhanced opportunity to know the potential partner in a safe but emotionally intimate environment.
Most citizens of these online communities are more than happy to assist new comers to orientate themselves to the platform and the majority of users you will encounter are of the same social cross section as in real life. The population online mirrors the population offline. There is no difference in the cross section with the exception that citizens of virtual worlds tend to be highly computer literate and proficient.
When it comes to virtual worlds the best advice offered is simply “don’t believe the hype”. Find out for yourself. If Facebook and other social media platforms stimulate you chances are you will simply love Second Life as the ultimate culturally diverse intellectually rich online environment.