Thursday, December 14, 2006

Giving Real Life Information in Second Life

One reader asked about how best to handle a situation when someone in Second Life persists on asking you about Real Life, and you do not wish to provide that information for whatever reason. I am sure this has come up for many of us (certainly on several occasions for me). So I thought this is a good topic for discussion.

On this issue, I think there are probably 2 groups of people in SL:

The first group is in SL to meet someone for RL friendship/dating (or at least open to the idea of doing so). There's nothing wrong with that. SL is made for social interactions, so it functions well as a meeting place/dating service.

The second group is in SL to get away from RL. They are in SL to escape some RL issue, to enjoy some peace, or to not be physically challenged. There ARE people in SL that just want to stay in SL (I am among this group!). And this may come as a surprise to people in the first group.

I am in SL to learn, build, write, and have fun. I am not in SL to meet someone for RL. If I had wanted to meet guys, I would sit in the mall having coffee by myself (or wear a mini-skirt to Home Depot :P). At least I can avoid most of the Hey Sexy routines. Im not in SL to have a RL relationship. People like me make that quite clear in our Profiles and conversations. Trust me, we're not lying.

It seems that most (not all) men are in the first group of trying to meet someone in RL. At least it feels that way :P I am sure some of the guys are frustrated when women do not readily send over their pix with phone number, birthday, and home address attached.

One guy got quite annoyed with me after he told me all kinds of information about himself and sent me several photos. I had neither asked for the information nor the photos. But he wanted me to do the same in return, arguing that its only fair. I did not provide the information/photos. And I left it up to him to continue talking with me or to stop; but I was not going to provide the information/photos. (He eventually stopped talking to me.)

I dont think it was a fairness issue in this case. I did not ask for the information/photos. Someone has no rights to compel me to provide the information/photos just because they chose to give me unsolicited information/photos. I had already told him more about me than I intended to (*sigh* dont do SL under the influence...). I finally drew the line and stuck to it.

But I totally understand that strong feelings can develop in SL. I have several friends in deep, loving relationships in SL. As you become more comfortable with someone, you may be inclined to share more RL information. Just like the rest of the Internet, you should be careful when providing personal information. Without body language and the person's friends/associates, it is difficult to really know a person based on SL interaction alone.

Just remember that almost all SL introduction classes warn the students against giving out personal information. There ARE predators out there who are good at manipulating you. These predators exist in Real Life, so SL would be that much easier for them to exploit.

We are all adults, and I think you know how to look for those red flags. Take your time and really get to know a person. Dont let someone rush or manipulate you into doing something before you are ready, particularly when giving out Real Life information. Remember, one of the great appeals about SL (at least for me) is safety. I am very safe in SL as an avatar. But when you start giving out Real Life information, you are giving up that safety to a person you can never truly know. It is a risk. So take it slow. Anyone worth the risk would be willing to wait and get to know you first.

Please share your thoughts on this topic (by comments)! This is a topic that affects us all.


Kefrens said...

I agree with your mind.
SL and RL are two things without relationship between them. You "play" the game, you "play" a Character (except one or two special people) and nothing else.

Nelson said...

I think you are right. It is amazing how often the lines tend to blur between SL and RL. I share very limited information with an even more limited group of people. I always hesitate when asked about specifics.

Everything in SL is so idealized that it is like living in a Barbi world where everyone looks great, there are no problems and all is safe. That can make even the most safety conscious person drop their guard.

The important thing to remember is that SL is all about fantasy. Don't ever give anyone enough specific information about yourself to let them be able to find out where you live, work, or play.

I've heard of so many people getting together in RL with people they meet in SL and it always makes me feel very nervous.

Tina Dojoji said...

hi my first post here but i read all your posts ^^ i decided to make this my first post because this is something important to me.

i have the same mindset as you,that i come to sl to relax and have fun. personally i wrote myself some rules and they are actually written on a note card. i'll write the first 3 ones i have here maybe it can help somebody ^^

#1: i dont mix real life and second life.
which means i dont meet anyone irl from sl nor do i give out pictures, i dont use voice or use webcam. i dont even give out my e-mail adress.

#2 i dont ask you about your real life, you dont ask me about mine.

this one is the one most people have a problem with, even me lol. i do give out information about my rl a bit, like my age, my country or pieces and bits of my schedule but it takes a long time to get it out of me. i usually just tell them i'm a fairy in sl and they start to talk to me about that lol.

a lot of people try to press for more info but i just say sorry i have to follow rule #2 and usually they just leave it alone.

#3: what happens in sl stays in sl.
ok i know this blog is for general people so i'm not going to explain it but you can guess why i have it ;)

i think its mostly guys that press for info and that are insistant. my girl friends usually just wait and it eventually comes up in a conversation but guys seem to want to know everything about you very quickly.

i also agree that we have to be very careful on sl, theres a lot of manipulaters that could lurk on sl. reminds me of myspace actually.

but sl is still so much fun if your careful and take the time to hang you with the people you meet ^^

Lauralee said...

Well, written, Natalia!

Manuel Reiter said...

This is yet another very good post from Natalia Zelmanov.

It seems a little bit of "filtering" can be done just using the profile wisely.

After that, one might need a strategy for handling different types of approaches from people who just won't take no for an answer.

That sort of strategy should probably have different levels, here's one suggestion:

LEVEL 1) "You're very nice but you have to realise I will not mix SL and RL and therefore I cannot give you this information. OK? :)"

(and that's the end of the smilies)

LEVEL 2) "I'm going to have to be firm with you. Please don't ask me for this information again, because I have clear limits between SL and RL and I would like you to respect that. Thank you."

LEVEL 3: "You must stop asking me this. Do it one more time and I will have to mute you. I mean it, and I am not going to tell you this again."

Next step is the Mute button. No more discussion at all.

Tina's notecard rules were very good - thank you for sharing that.

Stand up for yourselves and don't give in to any bullying!

Caterin said...

I'm with you in the second group.

I don't mind giving vauge geographic info because that helps with timing things but anything else...i try and make it clear right at the start that for me, First and Second life are not to be confused or mixed together

Taimi Valeeva said...

What great posts from both you Natalia and the other commentators you all make such excellent points. I really love your blog as I've said before they are usually so light and full of fun, but this one really had some edge to it! The mark of anyone with real talent is the ability to switch as you have shown here and with such an emotive subject(well as far as SL goes anyway!). Maybe its because Caterin shares a very similar name to my r/l daughter(and I love her blog!)but a agree with her some vague info is OK and about as far as I will go. My situation is slightly deferent in that it would take a fair bit of time to some explaining my r/l situation and quite frankly I don't tell everybody it, each time I am asked(I have a s/l Finnish name, my s/l job is ran by a Swedish couple, I live in r/l in the US, but in r/l I am from a 4th European country!)I will tell people that I am from the USA(although I do not consider myself American(I don't tell people that bit!)to keep it short but that’s about it.
I would also agree that it is mostly guys who fall into the first group, in s/l I'm in a relationship of sorts, my partner and I know almost nothing about each others r/l and to be frank it's something that I have a great deal of enjoyment trying to piece together a r/l picture from just our general conversations not pushing nor probing just seeing what comes, neither one of us is looking for anything other than something behind the s/l mask. Now even in a relationship like ours really I think people who are in the first group would be surprised at how little one needs to know to have a functioning and fulfilling relationship in s/l, all we need to know is when each others going to be online. Now in my view if it works under those conditions, it really should work in any brief conversation that you might have in world. Obviously all the above presupposes that you feel comfortable enough to give out just that the minimum and if you don't s/l is about fun and if somebody is forcing you(or attempting)to do something that you are uncomfortable with I wouldn't give them 3 warnings.

dga Kyomoon said...

I was sitting in Borders reading The Female Thing by Laura Kipnis and thinking about gender issues in the two worlds when I realized I was out of the house doing something other than this new Second Life obsession. It felt good like realizing you've been on a bender for 2 days and it's just ended. Look back, you've been possessed. I was thinking about the discussion today on Natalia's blog about sharing RL info in SL and how the general feeling seemed to be that men are more interested in doing it than women. I'm not interested in it but sometimes it does just happen. It's never good. The idealized SIM becomes cluttered and sullied by the complications of physicality yours and someone else's. Instantly age matters, beauty matters, in SL your body is whatever you want it to be and it's clear what everyone/most want. Imperfection here is a novelty and a relief, almost a badge of courage but it's never unpleasant, never ugly. In RL off-the-mark-that-leads-your-mind-to-the-perfect is an architectural concept which doesn't carry over to bad skin and body odor.

Seohee Japayuki said...

Thanks very much for posting about this topic, Natalia! It is very interesting to read about other users' views on the topic and I'm so glad that I am not alone.

So far, what I've been doing is to just bite the bullet the second it comes to me. In my profile, I have provided my RL a/s/l as well as nationality. That is all I'm willing to give out specifics to. When asked, I have simply said, "I hope you do not take offense, but I keep SL and RL separate." And that's that.

Sadly, that is not always THAT for the other party and guys have made jokes or pressured me with politeness on asking "just one more " question. It took only one guy before I got fed up. I confess that I play games of my own and choose to ignore questions if they push or simply make an excuse to leave.

I hope more people comment because I would like to hear their thoughts.

SLNatalia said...

Wow! Thank you so much for all your comments! I have a hard time saying "no", and I confess that I felt a bit uneasy drawing and keeping that firm line between SL and RL. I am so glad (and relieved) that I am not alone in this.

Tina and Manuel, thank you for the excellent rules and strategy. I will try to follow them next time I get the high-pressure version of the "Hey Sexy" dialog :)

Lillka said...

Hmm, dunno,.. I LOVE finding real info about people. Well, i am a girl, do no harm.. but I also am carefull what type of info should I give.. well.. Usually give a lot more than needed, but that's just who I am.
Otherwhise I totally agree whit the points of this blog. It is really annoying when someone pushes you to give pics/ info to the limit you want to slap him shut.. :)

SLNatalia said...

Lillka, I think we should be careful about giving out personal information. Its scary to think that some guy you dont know might show up at my doorstep...

Anonymous said...

I agree with you girlfriend ... i myself have a terrible experience of falling in love in SL. it hits me really bad and miss all the fun in SL.

SLNatalia said...

Dear Anonymous, its so true! I have heard about a few broken relationships in SL... Just be careful :)

carron Etchegaray said...

I agree with the comments. The old saying "if I had a penny".

I am , and I suspect many more are, in SL because it is safe and you can let the ID and Ego out a wonderful place.

I have no 1rl info on my profile and it will stay that way.
Yet the amount of time I am pestered and harrased by SL'er who cannot understand no.

Shakes my head.....

SLNatalia said...

Carron, lol I totally understand your frustration :) I think people are in SL for diff things (I guess just like in RL :P). I dont think theres anything wrong with someone asking to see if you are interested in a relationship. But pestering doesnt work in RL...and wont in SL either :P

NMoon Carling said...

I just thought ide be a devils advocate.
Really guys personal information is that, its your choice what u give out however i would never as a male give out my phone number or address to someone i had barely met.
But i think thats where i draw the line because what can someone do if they know which state ur from or ur bra size *lol* (one the women have heard many times before i expect)
Noone can build up any kind of identity on u at all really from asl and what u look like in RL.

SLNatalia said...

NMoon, lol I have no idea why someone would want to know my RL bra size (on second thought, I dont want to know :P) I guess you are fear is having some guy show up at my door from SL (or worse).

Sometimes, its easy to slip and say too much. Ive been in SL while I was quite drunk...though the extent of my damage was some pretty messed up flexi gowns :P But I dont think I would want to socialize in SL while drunk. Its easy to do something I would regret...esp since I cant just start a new SL account...

Virtualaman Amat said...

Hi Natalia

remember me? [yeah, the guy who wanted to see what u look like in SL ;-)]

i am very inspired by you for a lot of reasons, which i will not get into as this is not the relevant post for fact i have started my own blog on[as am sure have many others]...

i have by now quite a few [though there are so many] of ur posts by now and this is the first that I "had" to express myself on...

i completely agree about ppl being careful for their own safety about giving RL info in SL, etc etc and most of what has been already said...

just a little something that's playing in mind it possible for relationships [both love as well as friendship] to be built in SL without any kind of information sharing? can one be happily have friends or even a partner in SL with zero information sharing? [i know that's not the point of the post anyways, the point being that one can share as much as one wants, just that one should be extremley cautious]... but my question is beyond that... can i happily have a SL existence with out any RL information sharing in SL, even the basics like country or age???

i am just coming out a relationship where I think I shared too much RL info, which is why my mind wonders...

probably should have started a post on this in my blog, but think this is a relevant place, since all the SL blog traffic stops at ur blog, Natalia :p

look forward to ur and everyone else's response to this ;-)


SLNatalia said...

Virtualaman, thanks! And congratulations on your own blog :)

As far as having relationships without sharing info, I think that tends to happen in role-playing sims. From what Ive seen, residents are there to live their roles (so theres really no reason to share RL info). Thats why I tend to encourage people to go to RP sims if they are trying to keep their RL lives private.

Theres also a large group in SL looking for RL relationships. I notice these groups tend to do more RL-related things (live music events, clubs, etc). So it really depends on what you are look for :)

Virtualaman Amat said...

Hiyeee (winks at Natalia)

Yup totally agree. Based on that and some not-so-good personal experiences in the past week, I have framed my own version of "Golden rules for a happy SL existence":

Rule #1: Never mix SL and RL, EVER!

Rule #2: Always remember that you are supposed to have FUN in SL (doing whatever makes u happy, and i mean WHATEVER), but the moment you stop having FUN, its time to Log Out and re-examine things.

Rule #3: While adhering to Rule# 1 & 2, ensure at all times that nobody's feelings are hurt (this is probably the most difficult one to follow, but also the most important!).

(wondering when I will get to know Natalia better through friends of friends of friends of.... *sigh*)

SLNatalia said...

Virtualman, I love your rules :) Lol theres not much to know about Natalia: shes really boring, cause shes on a posestand most of the day making hair or writing blog entries (it takes a lot of time just to keep all this running unfortunately ;P)

Virtualaman Amat said...


ok kill me for replying back in the same post with a non-post related reply (this!)

naah... I wouldn't have minded even catching a glimpse of Natalia even if only as a frozen AV on a pose stand!

(hehe, just realized that those rules kinda look like a rip-off of the ones you have mentioned in one of your blogs, after reading it, so here's reaching out and giving you the royalty fees)

Yeah and I can understand the schedule coz you are the only blogger I have read who repies to EVERY comment in the kindest, sweetest, and most wittiest mermaid humour EVER! (now you got me started on why I am in AWE of you, so I'll stop for your posts' length safety)

Cheers (checks his friends list to start the "hunt for Natalia" trail, by going through friends of friends of friends of friends... what the HECK, I am sure I'll reach there some day :))))

SLNatalia said...

Virtualman, lol on a posestand I just look bald ;P Trust me, Im a really dull mermaid who just works all day Im sure my friends would say the same thing ;P

TigerLily said...

Hi Natalia
Wish I had read this before I got involved in SL... I had no idea just how complicated it would get! I have ended up feeling hurt [brokenhearted is more accurate] and I have, without meaning to, hurt my SL boyfriend too. I was so in love with him and our SL together that I happily gave him pics and my phone number and my email. At the start of our relationship I told him I was in a RL relationship and that because of this I would not meet him in RL. But then it seemed that our relationship moved off SL and we spent lots of time chatting on Skype. Inevitably he asked me to go on webcam... I say inevitably, but the thing is it had not occurred to me that this was the next step. I had made the fatal mistake of not thinking things through. We argued about webcam... me saying it was too intimate, and that I felt guilty enough about betraying my RL relationship already. So I suppose what I am trying to get at is if you do exchange your RL info [ok not things like which country you are in or your hair colour etc], but really personal stuff like your pics and your phone number, then you are moving your SL relationship into RL and you may well have to deal with a very sticky situation.

There are some really insightful blogs here and like I said initially ... just wished I'd read them first. :-(

Natalia Zelmanov said...

TigerLily, Im so sorry that happened. I hope everything turns out OK for you! The relationships in SL are real as RL. I had a dear friend in SL who went thru the same thing, and it was a painful exp for her as well...

I hope in time, you will find the one you are looking for, whether in SL or RL :)

Anonymous said...

Oh I believed in the non dating online thing. Then someone changed my mine after time... Then of course it all went bad and from their end too. It's back to a full circle for me. I was smart with my first idea. It's better to meet in real life. I don't like the problems the net brought into it.

Natalia Zelmanov said...

Dear Anonymous, lol seems like so long ago when I wrote this! I know 2 couple who met in SL and got married. One of them met in an SL bar, the other in a dance club. So I guess theres something to SL dating after all :P

But you should def be careful about RL info...get to know the other person first!

Anonymous said...

I've just had an experience i'd like to share with you. After almost a month on SL, mostly sppent dressing up and going dancing in some Industrial/Goth clubs and vainly wandering around Languedoc and Caledon looking for other people; I seemed to hit the mother load by going to a Jazz/Blues retro niteclub.
I quickly found that it was apparently little more than a meat market with haughty, unfriendly women, and intrusive, slimy men.
I did meet one or two seemingly nice guys there, however, and since I love to dance and dress up, I kept going.
During a dance with a man who said in his profile he did not believe in playing games, and that you *could not* seperate RL and SL; he asked me if I was married. Up until this question he had seemed to be a very nice man. The moment he found out I had a partner in real life, however, the subtle manipulation began. He very cleverly attempted to put doubts in my head about my partner by saying that I should under no circumstances encourage him to get on SL too. He hinted that men are not to be trusted, and I was being naive if I thought my partner was any different. Since I know without doubt that he is indeed very different; I said as much. The conversation seemed innocent, but was very manipulative. It got much more complex and intense than I can explain here.
My point is that even when someone seems like they are "looking out for you" they may be trying to manipullate you; so be careful, even if someone seems nice..
I hope this post made sense. It's hard to get across the experience in this forum.
Thanks for your blog, it's restoring my faith in SL, which was shaken by this jerk...