Mmmkay, no, I don’t actually own a boomstick. What I do have is an Off switch (just as good in this context), and I’ve been thinking about misanthropy. Not the actual I-Hates-Most-Everybodies misanthropy, but why some of us flock to virtual communities while expressly avoiding deeper human contact on a daily basis. My social anxiety meter is in the medium-low range. I’m not fond of very large crowds (50% “germs!!!” 50% “you people are stealing all my air”) but I do fine in normal gatherings, parties, malls, etc. I’m not afraid to speak to an audience or go to an event. I don’t consider myself a recluse, yet days can pass where I venture no further than my front door and I won’t feel like I’ve missed anything. Between Tumblr, Twitter, blogging, the Internet and my gaming, it can often feel like I’ve been thoroughly socialized without ever leaving my desk. Maybe I’m just a new species of hermit.
A digital hermit. Dhermit? “Digimit” leads one to believe you’re a Pokemon while “dhermit” merely sounds like an epithet. We’ll go with the invective. 🙂
If we think of human contact as an analog device and VR contact as digital, tactical advantage goes to the dhermit. Just like the quantization noise inherent in digital computers smooths out the raw analog signal, VR contact allows us to truncate those signals we reject and use our own methods of lossy compression to extract only what we want from the contact, only what we’re comfortable with. The essentials without the messy and complicated details.
As a bonus, there’s an Off switch.
An avatar is a representation of you. It’s rarely – with some exceptions, notably Second Life, where thousands of avatars represent the real-world appearance of their human pilots – an accurate one. Our avatars can be anything, any fragment of ourselves we wish to pour into it, a little or a lot. Most of us take our dreams, who we wished we could be, our best face, and we either enchant the world with the attempt or bore it to tears and the Mute button. We can even extract toxic elements of our persona that we dislike and indulge that beast through VR, although I don’t recommend it. As always, Karma (rather like the Internet) applies and She never forgets. Resist the temptation to be a shitcock.
In the absence of any meaningful social anxiety, is misanthropy the only label for avoiding other humans? What is it about interacting with an idealized version of a person that we find more appealing than face-to-face contact? Is it that VR contact is more immediate and gratifying, or is it that we get to dictate the variables (appearance, weather, length of contact, crowding, germs!!!) that are so uncontrollable in real life?
As always, I’m stuck squarely in the middle. I like my friends, I like restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, bookstores, and museums, and I’m willing to venture out and enjoy those. I’m also very aware and fond of the formidable power of my Off switch.