Often, those of us who spend time in online worlds are told to “get a life,” as if ‘living’ in a virtual community is somehow less rewarding or wholesome than, say, spending our evenings in a pub getting wasted. (Of course, it’s not an either/or situation – we can do both! Sometimes at the same time!)
But on the “get a life” criticism, here is an interesting article from Reuters: a study on Second Life and the pursuit of happiness.
- “there is a strong correlation between well-being and success in Second Life and well-being and success in real life.”
- “There is, however, a small group which feels less comfortable in the real world but has discovered fantastic social possibilities in Second Life,” wrote study authors David de Nood and Jelle Attema, including retirees, the unemployed, housewives and “those who are ill or physically challenged.”
- A large amount of time spent in Second Life “does not automatically have a bad influence on visitors’ social lives,” the authors added. “On the contrary, it seems that it can have a therapeutic effect on those with few friends: as they spend more hours in Second Life, they start feeling happier in the real world.”
In short, the study argues that those who have rich and fulfilling lives in the real world, will have rich and fulfilling lives in Second life, and those who have poor, limited lives in the real world can have rich and fulfilling lives in Second life – and that can lead to improvements in their real world lives. In short, everybody wins.
There are some problems with the study – it is very small (246 individuals) and relies on respondents honesty. But it’s a start – hopefully there’ll be bigger and better designed studies in the future. My own feeling is that such studies will support these findings. What do you think?