[MUD-Dev] "Virtual" What?

Dave Rickey daver at mythicentertainment.com
Wed Nov 15 13:01:29 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

    Some of you may be aware of an on-going story on Lum's about "Sheyla",
an EQ Guide who committed suicide, shortly after being discharged from the
program and banned from the game.  For those that haven't, you can read
about it here:


    I've done some checking of my own, and it doesn't appear to be a hoax.
As the story on Lum notes, she had a lot of problems unrelated to the game,
far from being the cause of her depression, EQ and Guiding represented her
escape from it.  Every suicide is a waste, but this one even more than most,
she was a pretty girl with a lot more artistic talent than I've ever even
hoped to have, now we'll never know if she would have succeeded in her hopes
to "break in" to the industry.

    One of the landmark works of sociology; _Suicide_ (Emile Durkham,
pub.1897) drew the conclusion that suicide was tightly linked with isolation
from society, that the difference between a depressed or desparate person
who committed suicide and one that didn't was how closely tied they were to
their social framework, and this is generally accepted in sociology.
Psychologists are pretty much in agreement that disengagement from friends
and family is a normal precursor to suicide, they differ in their judgement
of whether it is a cause or effect of the intense depression that can lead
to suicide.

    It's popular in the mainstream media to describe people who pursue
online social activities in preference to real life equivalents as
"Isolated", I personally don't agree with this.  The same separation that
they focus on, many people find safety in.  The tendency to share personal
secrets and information with comparative strangers met on the net has been
thoroughly documented, and there has been some serious discussion of its
therapeutic effects.  Online social bonds may lack the breadth of "real"
social bonds, but they tend to be in many ways deeper.

    This girl adopted the EQ community as her social support network.  When
access to that community was taken away, that apparently became the "trigger
event" for her suicide.  Even if this particular incident does turn out to
be a hoax, there's something very significant here.  There's nothing
"Virtual" about online relationship networks.

--Dave Rickey

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