A number of behavioral characteristics are persistent in Second Life [SL] and appear to be indicative of greater realm of digital social media. Second Life came to popularity in the 2006-2008 period, 4-6 years prior to the massive growth in digital social media and the following Second Life characteristics appear to be as central in the worlds of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as in Second Life:
- The accelerated process of friending-discard; both in speed and emotional impact. A constant refrain in SL is that social relationships are both more intense and also very short, essentially amplified and on fast-forward. Residents frequently comment on going through complete relationship cycles within a year, when the same sequence would take years in RL [real life].
- Lack of diversity-siloing. Pleasantville on one hand is somewhat unique, but the clustering into like-minded communities is symptomatic of SL. The majority of residents never go into the ‘public areas’ but stay in private communities, ranging from vampires-furries-Gorean-medieval…
- Socialization is unstructured but very fast. SL is relatively uncomplicated in terms of social norms, but they are acquired within a very short period of time and entirely w/o intentional socialization training. This can be seen in the constantly ‘revolving door’ of people entering and leaving SL.
- Territory and personal ownership (both of land and objects) are very important to Residents in SL, as can be seen both in studies in SL and also in the activity in the SL Marketplace [https://marketplace.secondlife.com/]. Given that both the land and objects only exist in a digital format amplifies the value that people can place on digital-only ownership.
- Many, if not most residents in virtual worlds seem to have very little difficulty integrating the digital into their normal frames of reference/world views. This can be seen with the dislike for flying in SL and the proxemic social norms found in virtual worlds.
- People are willing to invest major amounts of time and capital in virtual worlds both to self-define and also to be part of a group/community. A large structure (such as a shopping area) will generally cost 40-75$ US per month on the mainland; remember that you then have to either design/build your own structures or purchase them (in Marketplace). Private areas are at least $295/month minimum. While the App is free—(gain a model taken up most successful social media Apps) the costs to engage rise rapidly, especially when you include the time spent in-world.
Similar to tourism, virtual world users are not looking to live in truly exotic or different. They want a digital realm that allows them freedom, has less constraints but looks and functions like RL [real life].