Can SL break the bonds that RL sometimes places on us?

Meet my long time friend, Rick Aurotharius.

In Second Life, Rick is not very hard to miss. He is the ladies man with long flowing hair, chiseled and defined abs, and a keen way of being wicked and flirty, yet sweet anda gentleman at the same time. You can usually find him DJing at some of the better clubs in SL, spinning the latest metal or dance hits, or even rockin’ out some country music. There is almost always at least one attractive young lady nearby when Rick is around.

Rick Aurotharius also has cancer.

It is no secret really. Rick notes right there in his profile that he is a 60 year old guy battling stage 4 rectal cancer. He doesn’t mention that he has been fighting for a long time now, including a long stay in a nursing home. You can bet that while there, one true asset was his computer that let him come in to SL and do what he loves doing. He was kind enough to give me permission to discuss his illness in this posts, because that is the kind of guy he is.

Rick is not alone. I have a good friend in Second Life who is wracked by headaches and constant fatigue and is currently trying with the help of neurologists to find the cause of an ailment that has severely limited what she can do in real life. In Second Life, she has no such limitations.

The use of Second Life as a coping mechanism for real life medical limitations has been an interest of mine that blossomed with a real life experience of mine when, due to some poor behavior in my youth, I landed in a hospital facing not one, but two very invasive surgeries. All went well but the recovery left me severely limited for longer than I expected. Things all of us normally took for granted such as riding a bike, going for a walk or just hanging out in a social setting with friends, suddenly were taken away. In a word, it kind of sucked.Second Life was my way around my restrictions that health had placed on me.

At about that same time, I was given a notecard  from a friend in world. It has circulated a bit, maybe you have even read it yourself. It is an account of someone who meets an interesting man who is fascinated with sailing in Second Life. After initially perceiving a slow response from this person as a lack of interest, the writer of the notem who was using voice, discovered that the man was deaf. A lover of sailing in real life for years, the man now enjoyed sailing in Second Life.

I truly feel that one of the real missed benefits of Second Life is its ability to assist those who are coping with illness or handicap in real life. We hear and read a lot in  the media these days about the dangers of too much logged onto the net, buried in Facebook or texting  and video games. Some of the concern is surely warranted, but I have often wondered, and perhaps one day we will see, if Second Life could not be a tool used by physical therapists or even psychologists in treating real life handicaps.

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2 thoughts on “Can SL break the bonds that RL sometimes places on us?

  1. I have had many friends over the years who used SL as an escape from the realities of their RL, physical as well as emotional. The limitations of our physical existence drops away when we come in-world. Yet, we still build stairs in our virtual homes/castles/skyboxes.

    Researchers at Stanford found that when we see our avatars engage in some behaviors, we’re more likely to act that way in RL. One step towards your vision of virtual physical therapy?
    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/february22/avatar-behavior-study-022510.html

    I know I dress nicer in RL now than I did once upon a time. 😉

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