A Smaller World Than You Think
The world of Second Life is massive. On the average night, I usually log on by about 5pm SLT. Oftentimes, the Residents Online Now status is pushing 70,000 by this time of night. Opening the world map reveals scores of green dots, sometimes clustered so closely together that they appear to be one solid mass.
Up until recently, I considered Second Life to be such an enormous place, that it was easy to become lost in the crowd. And the social circles seemed to divided so that for the most part, the groups didn’t seem to often cross paths. (In fact, this was a topic I considered blogging about for several months, but have been afraid to touch on the subject of segregation with SL.) As far as I could tell, the most common ‘groups’ seemed to fall into one of the following categories: The furries, the goreans, the media (Bloggers, podcasters, reporters, etc), the musicians/entertainers (live musicians, DJs, comedians), the content creators (builders, artists, designers), the corporations (Companies who intended to start up a branch in SL, like the banks and places like Ford- most have closed up shop and moved on), gaming (RP sims, Slingo, Primtionary) and the sex industry (Strip and sex clubs, sex gen scripters, escorts) . And then of course, there are the rest- people who either have not yet found their niche, or are content to explore or find enjoyment in what is already offered here.
Until a few months ago, my impression was that most people seemed to settle within their individual social circles. Some of them were more likely to overlap- like the media, content creators and entertainers. Others like the goreans, furries and corporations seemed to stick mostly to themselves. But the point is, once you travel outside of your personal circle, you were not very likely to run into very many familiar names. I could visit different sims around the grid, and it would be much like going to a different state or even country- I almost never ran into anyone that I knew. And if I did, it was usually a big surprise.
The huge boom in popularity for Plurk changed all of that. There are a number of social networking sites out there, some of which have been around for years. Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook are just a few that many people are familiar with. As far as I know, Plurk is fairly new on the scene. But as far as popularity with the Second Life residents, I believe that Plurk is in the lead, by far.
People have asked, ‘what exactly IS plurk? And why is it any better than Twitter?’ The biggest and most important difference I can point out is that while Twitter allows you to reply to one anothers posts- Plurk compiles them all into one thread, similar to what you would find on a forum. With Twitter, unless you have the same people on your friends lists, you aren’t going to be able to see all the responses. And even if you do, they are so fragmented that its hard to follow any conversation. Plurk lists them all together, so that clicking on the individual message will show all the replies, allowing you to follow the thread of the conversation. This often explodes into an active conversation, sometimes with dozens of participants and responses.
I feel that Plurk has brought the SL community together in the most amazing ways. Currently, there are already hundreds of Second Life residents using Plurk, with more joining every day. Thraxis Epsilon created a PlurkHud that you can use to plurk messages and even SLurls while in world. Hamlet Au of New World Notes recently joined Plurk, got himself a PlurkHud and wrote and article about it on NWN. Moggs Oceanlane has been organizing a list of SL plurkers that she updates frequently. A lot of the more well known residents of Second Life has since joined the Plurk community, including everyone from top name designers, to SLCN personalites, to Katt and Torley Linden. This is causing so many residents to interact and become friends with each other in a way I have not witnessed before. There are a handful of Plurk groups and subscribe-o-matics in world, and its common for spontaneous “Plurk Parties” to be announced. This is bringing so many people together who normally have not had access to one another. I think the people who are probably being impacted the most are the fashion designers who are becoming closer with their customer base through plurk. Plurk allows them to post announcements or simply chat, bringing them ‘closer to the people’. In turn, I think this gives many residents a better appreciation for them and what they do. And I am certain that it has to be improving traffic to their stores during sales and new releases.
A real community is forming. Recently, somebody commented that their SL ‘seems a whole lot smaller’. I agree, wholeheartedly. I cannot even count how many times I’ve gone out to a store or to some event, and seen at least one other plurker there. Sometimes several! Rather than being in a club or store full of anonymous avatars, many times I have experienced running into a name that I’ve known from countless conversations on plurk- but that I had not ever met in world before. And really, its the greatest feeling.
Second Life is a huge place. The number of new residents continues to climb on a weekly basis. And yet, it feels more like a community than ever.