When I first set foot in the unknown, to me, internet in 1994 – I soon was warned by people (on- and offline) to be extremely careful with my information when it came to real life (although we didn’t call it ‘real life’ then, I think we called it just real information), because: stalkers and creeps. And all the dangers that come with it.
I have always been careful, I have had over the years many internet-names and persona’s and rarely used my real name.
Then I discovered Second Life, in 2007, and well…that is a whole different world with again: no use of my real name and in my profile not much revealing about my personal life. I’ve kept it like that ever since, and I am not the only one.
This week some threads on Facebook and Plurk were started, mainly after a blog-post on New World Notes, about a stalker who found a lady’s real life information by doing a reverse image search on a photo once published of her. And not with good intentions.
A horror story really, and certainly not something I wish anyone to happen!
Does this mean I am still as extremely careful as I was back in the late 90’s and till a few years ago when I started my Second Life?
Nope. I am not. Not anymore. I have, the past 2 -3 years, been a bit more relaxed in sharing personal things, not including my address and not always a real life photo, but just more relaxed.
I have even gone as far that I have met some SL friends in RL.
Not just anyone. People I consider close SL friends with whom I have had long chats, over a long period of time and in all cases I was already familiar with them on (RL) Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype and in sometimes phone/Whatsapp.
A few years ago I’ve met with a SL friend in London, where I was for business and he gave me a sightseeing tour around the city, dragged me in and out of the tube and took me to great places for drinks and dinner – which I as a tourist would never have found by myself. It was super and I have fond memories and cherish the photos. Oh and yeah, we are still friends in SL.
Last year I met another couple of friends who were visiting Amsterdam, I knew from SL for some years and we met for dinner, Indonesian, in the city centre. Great conversations, so nice to finally see each other in real and it felt like meeting up with old friends. Which it basically was!
I’ve met a lovely couple in Amsterdam Airport a few months ago, at 5AM, for breakfast as she had landed and just before she would travel further. It was wonderful and so cool to meet them! It didn’t bother me I had to get up so early, I would not have wanted to miss it!
This weekend I had another meeting with a very dear SL friend, Grazia. We don’t live that far from each other and recent events – the passing of her SL partner and my best friend Don – led us to finally meet. We have had lots of Whats App-contact the months prior to Don’s passing and often after she had (usually not so good) news, we would end the conversation with: we should meet for drinks soon!
So Saturday we finally did. We had only seen each others photos and spoken on the phone, but it was really – for me – like meeting an old friend you have not seen in a while.
We went to a beach, it was a lovely sunny day, and sat in one of those hipster beach-clubs – you know where you try to sit elegantly on one of those huge bean bags, but fail and you only get comfy after a few drinks?
In Don’s honour we ordered Mojito’s to start with, his favourite drink.
Actually, we didn’t stop with just one. It was an afternoon filled with delicious finger food, lots and lots of Mojito’s (OK I switched to Gin and Tonic – without the tonic, ahem, and to be some sort of guilt-free we even ordered a bottle of water!) and more food.
And chatting……so much chatting. As if we had to catch up some years. We shared memories about Don, there was the occasional tear or two, but mostly we laughed and smiled and had another Mojito and said cheers to him – being convinced that if he would see us, he would be giving us one of those big, bright smiles he had!
We chatted about our real lives, vacations, work, home, family and of course Second Life. It was a great time, and that a good time flies we noticed when the sun had suddenly set and it was late!
(No worries, we had made arrangements for transport and did not need to drive!)
If I was still so paranoid, as I was years ago, I would have missed meeting all these new people and the friendships. It has so far only enriched my SL experience and enhanced my social life, online and offline.
Do I think you should just go out and meet each other? No!
I still think it is wise to be careful and cautious and be absolute sure about your own feelings. If you feel the slightest hesitation or doubt: don’t do it. Simple.
In my case, I have never gone to meet someone without letting my family or a friend know where I was going and who I was meeting. This includes leaving them a note with phone-number, Facebook and/or LinkedIn account of the online friend I am meeting.
And I always sent a message to said family member/friend, during the meeting and afterwards when I am back home. That’s just common sense and it has never offended anyone. In fact, most people I’ve met do the same!