Digital Love, Real Love (pt. 2)

Sylea Sygall Second Life avatar

Following up on my original Digital Love post, on how a couple met in the virtual world of Second Life and fell in love, here’s the story from the perspective of my friend.  I had originally intended to edit both of these accounts into a digestible single post, but found their thoughts so compelling and authentic, I decided they should share this with the world, as they intended:

“I had been a fairly avid video gamer with my teenage son for some years before I explored the virtual world called Second Life. I had read about it and seen some media coverage, and because of my interest in the gaming industry, found the idea intriguing.”

In early May of 2008, while home recovering from surgery; I decided to register in this strange new world, with an avatar named Sylea Sygall. I quickly met several people from both Canada and the US who helped guide me through the initially confusing, but very entertaining environs of the user designed and built world.

One of the aspects that I enjoyed most was the various clubs where one could listen to music, chat, dance, and meet new friends – each in their avatar forms. Long being a huge music fan, and a semi professional singer in my younger days, it was wonderful to be a part of a community where musical tastes were shared and discussed. Most evenings one could expect to see an average of 60,000 people logged in to the vast expanse that is this virtual world.

One evening in late June, I was at a club that I frequented regularly with the small cadre of friends who were rapidly becoming my new social circle. That particular evening my avatar was dancing and chatting when an avatar named Aplonis Ember requested a particularly obscure rock song to be played. It so happened I had heard this song once a very long time ago, and commented in the local text chat box that I liked it very much.

This comment prompted him to send me a private message to talk about our musical tastes, as he had never met anyone in world who had heard the song before. This simple conversation began what turned out to be a magnificent adventure for both of us. We ended up enjoying each other’s company to the extent of spending almost every night meeting, exploring Second Life, dancing and talking about life. Aplonis had long had all his personal information including his photo readily available, I took a bit longer to take the plunge and send him my own photo and personal details. Meeting such a companion was unanticipated and wholly unexpected – my foray into Second Life had totally been out of curiosity and nothing more. I had not been seeking out another partner, and in fact had long felt like I would never have another one after my husband of 20 years and I separated.

Aplonis and I discovered connections in the Real World that over lapped to an incredible degree. We had similar real life marital situations (myself amicably separated for over 6 years and himself in the process of ending a decades long unhappy marriage) we both had a single teenage son in high school, and we both were Buddhist. ( he having been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist for many years, and myself still in the learning stage but long connected to its particular ideals), among some of the foremost ones. We both had similar points of view about life and our goals.

We began to recognize that aside from its statistical incredibility, that our meeting was more than just coincidence. We jointly acknowledged that it seemed we were falling love with at least the idea of each other, and agreed that we needed to take further steps to see if what we felt onscreen, could be translated off the page. Late July 2008 I took a huge leap of faith and booked a plane ticket to Toronto, the meeting place we had both agreed would be the simplest for each of us to get to, Aplonis being from Michigan and myself from British Columbia.

Suffice to say that everything we knew, felt, and had explored with one another virtually was confirmed within hours of our meeting in the real world. We were both thrilled, amazed, and profoundly affected by this meeting. Aplonis had noted in one of our many long conversations, that it was as if we had been on parallel paths all our lives and those paths had finally converged. For me the meeting in Toronto was life changing beyond anything than perhaps the birth of my son. I had never felt so certain that I was where I was supposed to be, and who I was supposed to be with those 5 glorious days.

January 2009, I spent 9 days with him at his home in Michigan, where the magic of our Toronto visit was reconfirmed. We are deeply in love, struggling with the challenge of our distance, which, due to our parenting obligations cannot change for a few years yet. So, we spend every evening together in Second Life, where we share a beautiful home, along our use of other social networking sites to maintain daily contact, Facebook being our other of choice due to its excellent text chat capabilities. Until such time as I can make the move east, these avenues of communication, along with (hopefully) 3 to 4 visits a year are what we do to make it all work.

We are exceptionally blessed, and know other couples with similar stories, some yet to take their relationship to real life, and some who have done so with success. The media coverage of Second Life so far would have you believe that it is just a hive of extra marital affairs, deceit and falsity. There is much of that, but it has been our good fortune to meet a large group of likeminded people who do not play those kinds of games, and are just enjoying the social, musical and artistic aspects. I believe they make up the larger demographic within this wonderful world.”

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