When thinking of Virtual Worlds, my mind has always jumped to conclusions. World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Webkinz are some of the first to come to mind. By joining these worlds, subscribers enter into a world much different from the one we live. We can chose from a multitude of “Second-Personalities” as I like to call them. Becoming a Knight, a Sage, a real estate Mogul, or even a puppy (Webkinz), is easily within the realm of possibilities. In these worlds, impossibilities become possible.
Yet in recent years, these Virtual Worlds have taken on a new shape. Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter have attracted a whole new following. While these platforms may not seem like creating an Avatar knight who roams the country saving the poor, they serve a similar purpose of fulfilling fantasies of subscribers.
Facebook seems to be the new craze of Virtual Worlds. On Facebook, subscribers will post the best and brightest in their lives. It is life without fault. In this Virtual World, the grey in life is left out, only leaving the fun and the adventure for everyone to see. When was the last time you saw a picture of someone having a bad day, or someone crying (and not because they were drunk), or someone listing their negative attributes as part of their profile.
With these partially virtual profiles, the Facebook craze has also caused addictions similar to those of Virtual Worlds. CNN recently released an article titles Five clues that you are addicted to Facebook. These five clues include 1. You lose sleep over Facebook, 2. You spend more than an hour a day of Facebook, 3. You become obsessed with old loves, 4. You ignore work in favor of Facebook, and 5. The thought of getting off Facebook leaves you in a cold sweat. (Admittedly, the fifth clue made me chuckle.) These symptoms made me reminisce back to my youthful years when I would often times lost sleep and lay in bed thinking about playing my favorite MMORPG.
In a more positive side, while Facebook on the one hand, has become a new type of platform for Virtual worlds, the positive influences it has had on people is incredible. The networking possibilities are endless. Subscribers can get in touch with old friends, business’s can advertise, event planners can hype their events, activists can build support for their cause, and users can even play games. More interestingly, I found an article reflecting on Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools, and their role in the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. Obama counted over 2 million supporters on Facebook (McCain 600,000), 112,000 “tweeters” (McCain 4,600), and Obama supporters uploaded 1,800 videos on the web to McCain’s 330. A survey done by Pew Research Center indicated that 46% of Americans used the Internet, email or text messaging for campaign news. With nearly half of voters using this method, it is no wonder than McCain missed by such a large mark.
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