Friday, June 27, 2008


Since I dove into social networking almost a year ago now, I have felt connected to people that I have never met in the real world. I feel like I have friends all over the place. It is true that this is the very surface of a friendship, kind of like the guy the runs the local convenience store that you make small talk with when you see him every few days.

The difference is that so much more is shared with my virtual friends. I see personal pictures, videos, and read private thoughts of people who may only be represented by a small icon in Twitter. I carry on conversations with people while our avatars in Second Life are sailing around the island by my second life home. I visit blogs and learn out how others work, live, and what they are passionate about.

My Fail Whale Tshirt!

Joe at the Mini Mart and I share almost nothing of substance. We only talk about the weather, sports or gas prices in 30 sec snippets. Funny, but all of the conversations end the same, "What are you going to do?" As in, "The ____(insert weather, Redskins, or gas prices here) stink, but what are you going do?" I am not sure how it became acceptable to insert a question into the closing of a conversation, but what are you going to do? Then I usually say something like, "See you later," or if I am feeling especially friendly, "Take it easy."

It is extremely important to me that I maintain, and hopefully improve, my real world relationships with my family and friends, and never short-change them while I explore social media. While I have thrown myself into the exploration of social networking tools with great enthusiasm, I will not allow my real world relationships to suffer for any reason. Virtual relationships should extend what is possible in the real world, not take anything away from what you already have. Amazingly, I have found that both worlds can coexist and my virtual social experiences have made me a better teacher, and a better communicator in the real world.
This weekend I have my first virtual job. I volunteered to be a tour guide at the Alamo in Second Life (SL) for ISTE during the NECC conference. I am kind of nervous, because no matter what anyone thinks, an avatar is a representation of yourself and I really want to do a good job.

Mission Padre- Alamo Tours
I will be leading tours at the Alamo as a Franciscan Monk. My first real purchases in SL were my monk outfit and skin for my Monk. I also thought it was important to have some gestures, so I bought four. I can't remember how much it cost in Linden Dollars, but in total it was about $5 US. I don't know if that is a good price or not, but I am happy with my purchases.

I am not sure why I decided to be a Monk, but I literally jumped at the chance. Peaceful acceptance of the universe seems appealing to me at this point in my life. I have always struggled and fought with life, but I have come to understand and appreciate the gift I have been given. All of my anger and conflict of the past have only hurt me, but I didn't even consider that at the time I chose the role. It just seemed to fit at the time. A monk with three children. I think the church would frown on that.

I was going to try to adopt an accent for my character as I did over hear another tour guide doing that and it sounded great, but as I mentioned before all of my accents sound like bad Irish from a drunken Leprechaun. I figure that I should probably stick with speaking in my regular voice, sounding like a bad cartoon character would distract from what I am trying to accomplish. I don't mind being laughed at but I don't think anyone from ISTE would think it was funny...

I am a little disappointed that I can't be at the conference, but being able to give this tour does make me feel like I am part of what is going on in San Antonio. Otherwise, I am pretty sure I would be upset. I think half the people I follow on Twitter will be there. I am sure I will get Twitter updates, blog entries and maybe even some video and pictures from NECC, but I can't help but feel like I am missing something (besides the free drinks and goodies that get handed out).

Next year the conference will be in Washington D.C. I am planning to go to that one because it is reasonably close to home, but it is a whole year away. I will just have to hope for the best and try to plan ahead. It is nice to think that I would meet people in real life that might tolerate me because they have come across me in a virtual exchange. After all, what what is the point of being a part of a social network if you never actually connect?

No comments: