Friday, May 31, 2013

Ask DrFran: Is Second Life™ Addictive?

By DrFran Babcock

This week’s column is a little bit different in that it was inspired by an IM I got from a friend asking me to help a friend. While I write this column; I prefer not to “help” people in world, because there are too many possibilities for problems to arise. It’s just ethical to avoid this. However, my friend’s request got me thinking.

This friend wanted to know if there was a possibility that someone could spend too much time in Second Life. She told me a story about a friend whose First Life family were becoming upset because she was spending long hours in world, and was not interacting with anyone at home. This question allows me to address two things that are very important to me as beliefs in humanity, and beliefs about addiction.

You Can’t Help Anyone

I know, I know. You are saying to yourself: You are wrong DrFran, there’s always a chance that someone can be helped. Actually, I don’t agree with that. People do not get better until they themselves want to get better. One of the most common phone calls or emails that I get at work goes something like this: My daughter has a terrible eating disorder. I am afraid that she is going to starve to death. No matter what I do she refuses to eat, and this has turned into huge power struggles and fights to get her to eat even the smallest morsel of food. I want her to come into the hospital and get some help. She really needs it.

What I respond to this mother will probably anger you, but it’s really all that can be done. I say: I am really sorry for the problem you are having. I would be more than happy to talk with your daughter if she will just call me. Otherwise there is nothing I can do. I know how badly you want to help her, but you really can’t want this more than she does. I would advise you to call 911 (USA emergency ambulance) if she falls ill, but that’s really all you can do.

Horrors, you say? Well, no…just think about it for a minute. Have you ever wanted someone to love you with all of your heart and soul? Wishing doesn’t make things so, and wanting things for other people is a waste of energy. I have never made a single change in my life because others wanted it for me, but only when I finally wanted it for myself. I really hope this young girl calls me, because I do have tools to help individuals who might be anorexic find a way out of the need to starve.

DrFran’s Take on Addiction

Again, you may disagree with me, but I have a very functional definition of addiction. I spend a ton of hours in Second Life. I love it dearly. However, I work a full time administrative job, teach a graduate school level university class once a year, pay all my bills on time, and manage to stay in good health. I have a small group of male and female friends with whom I go out to eat, the movies, and into New York to see museums and shows. All in all, a pretty well balanced life for someone who does not have familial obligations. Thus, I can spend long periods of time in Second Life™ without it compromising the parts of my life that make me a functioning adult.

If you are someone who misses days from work, has no money to pay bills because of your tier, avoids family and friends to remain in world, or does things that have a negative effect on your day-to-day life, then in my definition you may be an addict. To me, an addict is someone who screws up their life, knows they might be doing that, but they are not able to stop. The horror of addiction is this: One day the addict generally reaches a point where the substance, thing, act, behavior to which they are addicted is no longer able to give them the pleasure it once did. In spite of this the though of stopping is terrifying. Once someone is so habitual in their use of, for example Second Life™, that they don’t know what to do without it, but can’t stand being involved in it either, they are caught in a tragic trap. Stopping or not stopping will not help the problem. Of course, stopping is really what’s needed in this case, but until the person realizes it, nothing and nobody can make that happen.

So, when I say that it’s up to each individual to decide for themselves if they are an addict, I really mean what I say. I might believe you have a problem, but only you can fix it.

Wishing I had happier news to share…much love,


Obligatory disclaimer: The column Ask DrFran is the work of DrFran Babcock, and may not reflect the views of SL Newser as a whole. Please direct any correspondence to DrFran Babcock. I look forward to hearing from you.

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