Virtual World WARNING
With an expanded world vision comes experiences of euphoria and tragedy. Though the virtual world is, hopefully, a refuge from a harsh real one, it really isn’t. Idealistically, avatars can build dream houses and fulfill fantasies. But there lurks a dark side. As everyone wishes for a kinder, gentler world, sadly, human nature is human nature. The criminal element is real. Social and virtual media are tools for illegal activity as well as legal. Generally, threats in the real world are visible. But threats are invisible in the virtual one.
Defensive behavior is necessary. Avatar anonymity is a myth. Any talented criminal can find out an avatar’s real identity. There are hackers, stalkers, and scammers. Each use different tactics.
Sim Street Journal wishes that SL would come with this warning label:
Avatar Awareness: Be Cyber Streetwise
(Please share!! If you have any additional policies, please share those too!)
Think of a virtual world as if a big city. Everyone knows there are pickpockets and worse out there, so people must be conscientious about where they go and who they trust. The same has to be true in the cyber world with some additions. This advice may not protect from all mischief, but these are policies that can cut down on it:
1. Visit high-traffic public areas wisely. Often in the busiest locations, the unsavory hang out. Many are just curious people, but the criminal element needs prey, and high traffic spots are good targets.
2. Read Profiles. Older avatars are generally the most reliable. There is honor in age/status. However, there are some that are particularly skilled at gobbling up time and resources of newcomers.
3. Recognize seductions. It is easy to get pulled into various communities or activities, so make choices carefully. Role play, games, shopping, etc. are great if real life permits the time to participate. But those with demanding real lives need to limit in-world responsibilities.
4. Verify partner identities. Any close relationship needs transparency between participants. To do business, to own property together, or to make any kind of time or talent commitment, set up a foundation of communication. It is a red flag when a partner will not reveal real contact information.
People can be streetwise in real life, and yet not be cyberwise, because everyone wishes for a better world. And, in most ways Second Life® is a better world. There are freedoms, opportunities, and experiences not possible to have in the real one. Virtual worlds will continue to grow in prevalence because the technology is so useful. The awareness of victim-avoidance must grow too.
Eleanor Medier describes what is behind this campaign in “Warning—a soap box becomes a stage”
Read related articles on identity, ownership, and creative concerns:
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Enjoy different, but related, issue versions: online and in-world (available at the Second Life® SSJ office (Innu 42, 35, 1649) or here as a PDF: Sim Street Journal #12
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— The in-world magazine has topics that relate to those who understand the virtual context, including photographs, parallel articles. It has tabs for information landmarks, and web links.
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