What? A virtual world helping me be a better person? How could this be? I began asking myself what else I could learn from this space.
I started talking to a lot of people, specifically veteran users, about this thought. I realized quickly that many people that have been in SL for a long time are hesitant to share their stories with just anyone, especially those fairly new to SL. Why? Well, through my own experiences, I have learned that if you talk about this too much, it raises eyebrows a bit (which, quite frankly is why I have written this blog post 3 times and trashed it before posting). Once I found a few friends that were willing to talk, I realized that I was not alone in this. Many of the avatars I spoke to had a great story about using Second Life to better themselves.
How does this happen? I have found for myself and for many others that in Second Life or any other virtual world for that matter, everyone has an opportunity to shine and it's easy to find lots of different people with the same interests as you. On those same lines, everyone is willing to listen to your strengths and help you find a way to use them. Virtual worlds are fantastic places to find a mentor. Yes, we do this in real life, but not quite at the level I see in Second Life.
If you talk to Mo Hax for any length of time, you may hear him refer to "The Disney Effect". These words couldn't explain my feelings about Second Life any better. When in the virtual world, it is very similar to being at Disney World. Most everyone welcomes everyone else with open arms. People will strike up a conversation much quicker than in the real world and the quality of helpfulness comes out in everyone. I've never met more people willing to help me learn a new skill than in Second Life. ISTE Island alone is full of docents and other avatars willing to help newbies and veterans alike on just about any topic.
Through the course of conversing, finding your way to contribute to the world and making connections with others, many find their "place". We find a connection to a group of people that have similar ideas and goals as we do which helps us to grow our knowledge in that area, in turn building our confidence.
I don't think anyone goes into a virtual world thinking it can change their life, but I can assure you it has mine. Not only do I value the friendships I have made, but the opportunities as well. Think of anything that interest you. There is SOMEONE in Second Life with that same interest and talking with them will allow you to learn more about that topic and quite possibly create a lasting friendship with a person that shares your interest.
For me, I have met my business partner, a truly wonderful educational mentor and even a few fantastic people that I now call close friends in the real world . I've met some of the most amazing educators in the world through Second Life and then had the opportunity to meet them in person at NECC 09. I've run 5Ks, had lunch and even gone dancing with Second Life friends. One of the coolest things is that I've had job offers and have helped people find jobs through Second Life. The networking alone is something no one should want to pass up and in my opinion is a more effective method of networking than the real world (inexpensive, less time consuming and you can do it in your jammies and fuzzy slippers).
The opportunities in Second Life are limitless if you are willing to open your heart and your mind to the possibilities that wait for you. Yes, it is a bit of a different way of getting the job done, but if done right, you will find that it is an effective way of accomplishing the task.