All things must pass. It's a pretty depressing thought, isn't it? But really, from the smallest to the largest levels in the universe, it would seem as if nothing is truly permanent. As opposed to living in some kind of fantasy land of denial, perhaps it's better to come to terms with the fact that people are not immortal, places change over the course of time, and even the stars and galaxies, on their massive scale that we can barely even comprehend much less relate to, have finite existences.
It's no surprise, than, that all things are ephemeral in varying degrees. Second Life, the online virtual world which I've enjoyed being a part of since 2006, is a good example. People and places come and go. Some last a short while; some -- like Triana's Music Trivia, which I'll talk about in a moment -- have lasted almost the entire length of the platform's existence. Last night, we celebrated TMT's anniversary as we do each June, with the weekly event having been running continuously for 14 years since it started in 2005, making it SL's longest-running regularly-scheduled event by far. Moreover, Triana Caldera, a woman who's become one of my closest friends and definitely the person for whom I am most grateful having met purely through SL, is about to celebrate her 15th rezday, having joined Second Life in 2004, barely a year after the entire platform got off the ground.
If you can imagine her effort at having put on this event each week for that length of time, almost completely on her own, it's amazing that it's lasted as long as it has. Most people would have burned out on doing it long ago. We're talking about putting together content for over 700 unique events. So when Triana announced earlier this year that she was finally ending TMT, it couldn't have been a shock to anyone (though it's obviously sad for those of us who've enjoyed this social gathering and the friends we've made as a result). Last night's trivia event and accompanying Zak Show are the final ones, at least for the foreseeable future.
Find Your Dream Woman
Coincidentally, I was on YouTube over the weekend, casually chilling and watching some videos in my rare down time. I've seen ads for SL before; I recall a campaign that they ran a number of years ago where they showed people in real life next to their digital avatars. I thought it was effective in that it imparted the essence of Second Life... a creative zone where people were provided tools to construct a world of their own making.
So, while watching some science and interview videos, I got served some banner ads from Second Life. Before I continue, let me tell you a thing that will add some helpful context to the opinion I'm about to offer. My career in real life is in the marketing realm... specifically, marketing communications, which covers advertising and PR and the overall positioning of companies and brands. My area of expertise is in the musical instrument, professional audio, broadcast, entertainment, and related industries. When I talk about this stuff, it's with the background of over 25 years of having been immersed in it.
These new banner ads from SL were pretty simple. They read "Find Your Dream Woman" with the call-to-action text of "JOIN NOW!", had an image of a female avatar, and the Second Life logo. See below for two examples.
Here's what I perceive as a person who a) has a great understand of Second Life and b) is an experience expert in brand positioning and advertising strategy: marketing Second Life as a meat market is a terrible mistake, and I can tell you why.
Tone Deaf and Dangerous
It's really pretty simple. There's no organized aspect of Second Life as a dating service. What that means is that now any woman who participates in Second Life should consider herself part of this marketing campaign. A woman might go into SL for any number of reasons... to create art, as a musician, a builder, a fashion designer, or for platonic social interactions and many other reasons. But as a result of this campaign, it's completely understandable that certain men who respond to this ad will have the expectation that women in Second Life are there for hookups. The company itself is saying that the women in Second Life are part of the product (or in this case, the service) it sells.
Doing that in a point in time where women's rights are under siege, and where we've been tackling the issues addressed by the "Me Too" movement against unwanted sexual interactions, shows that Second Life and its maker Linden Lab is either tone deaf toward the direction of society, or is simply in so much trouble financially that it is resorting to the lowest possible denominator by openly sexualizing the platform to grab new business.
Are there sexual and romantic relationships in Second Life? Of course there are... and when these things happen organically between consenting adults, I'm all for it. SL, like every other part of Internet-based communications, has its share of sexually-focused content, and that is fine with me. People can choose to view or participate in those things just as they can with Internet porn, if that's where their interests lie. They can visit adult sims in SL that are specifically made for those interactions. No problem. Enjoy yourselves. Awesome. Have fun.
But when the platform itself is being advertised as a medium for people to connect online similar to a sex-based dating service, and it's happening without the consent of the hundreds of thousands of female users... that's where I have a problem. When there's an uptick in the amount of inappriopriate behavior and harassment toward female residents of Second Life, the fault now lies completely on the purposeful efforts of Linden Lab. It's disappointing, to say the least.
The Last TMT Anniversary Show
Enough on that. I doubt Linden Lab will make any changes to this campaign; as an advertiser, I can attest that the act of being lazy and using elements of sex to get customers is always tempting (since it's easy and requires little thought or strategic planning), and it will likely result in new memberships from the types of men who are looking for cheap and easy online sex (as in, a free masturbation tool), and there are plenty of those kinds of men out there.
Me on the little stage at Triana's I've enjoyed so many times over the years, wearing a festive red leather jacket for some reason. Photo by Triana Caldera.
For now, I'll fill you in on the final TMT show, at least for the foreseeable future. I've played TMT's anniversary on many occasions, going back more than ten years to the first time I did it in 2008. TMT isn't any kind of live music venue; it's much more like friends getting together at a house party. I tend to play things there that are very specific or meaningful for Triana and the folks who hang out at her trivia event. It's always a good time. My musical theme was, understandably, the end of the TMT era. We had a few folks there who came back into SL last night specifically for the event; some are old friends who participated in TMT since its early days, even before we discovered it shortly after joining SL in 2006.
Triana's Music Trivia Grand Finale set list...
Mary Jane's Last Dance (Tom Petty)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Doin’ Time (Sublime)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Bring On The Night (The Police)
Leggy Blonde (Flight of the Conchords)
Things Under Trees (They Stole My Crayon)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Huge thanks to all of our great friends from TMT over the years... we may not see you every Sunday night, but we'll always love you!