Venus & Mars: Virtual Love, Real Satisfaction
Katrin Figge & Tasa Nugraza Barley
A couple of weeks ago, we ran a story in this newspaper about the growing popularity of the Facebook game Sims Social, where a player can create an avatar, a virtual version of oneself that lives in a nice house with a large garden. The avatar can have all the hobbies you wish you had in real life, like painting, playing the violin and writing, and also has human needs like going to the bathroom, taking a shower, eating and sleeping.
I’d never heard of the game, but for the sake of social reporting decided to investigate. I now must shamefully admit that I was instantly hooked.
I always laughed when people complained that their partners were obsessed with video games and spent most of their time in the virtual world, as opposed to with them.
But now I understand just how easy it can be to become addicted to a video game. My Sims avatar is quite demanding, and needs to be fed and entertained. She also has to see her friends (neighbors, in this case) on a daily basis, otherwise she feels like an outsider and gets bored. And I’m also dating someone … in the virtual world, that is.
Never mind that this somebody is actually a girl in the real world and has a male avatar, but it’s still quite amusing to pretend to be in a relationship. My avatar can go over to her boyfriend’s house where they can hang out, cuddle on the couch, giggle and hug and kiss. What’s more, our two avatars can even have sex in the virtual world (here, however, it is called “woohoo”), which instantly improves their moods.
They can even have a fight and insult each other — just like in real life — and later apologize and have some makeup woohoo.
Of course, as silly as all this may sound, single people might find some sort of satisfaction in the fact that, at least in the online world, they can maintain a healthy relationship, with all of its ups and downs.
I see this all as an amusing pastime. After that initial rush, now when I have nothing else to do and am sitting in front of the computer anyway, I open the game and spend a little time in the Sims world.
I don’t think this kind of relaxed approach to the game is problematic. But if I start to spend more time maintaining my avatar than myself, I’d have to say that something’s definitely wrong.
Perhaps, if I had a flesh-and-blood boyfriend, I wouldn’t need my avatar. As long as I remain single, though, I will happily continue a virtual relationship without feeling too crazy.
Katrin Figge is deputy features editor at the Jakarta Globe.
A decade ago, you wouldn’t have thought that people could meet their future husbands or wives on the Internet. You would have considered such a thing dangerous, or even a little crazy.
But now we’re seeing how the Internet has dramatically changed our romantic lives, with social networking playing an important role in this. Finding a boyfriend or a girlfriend online, and maybe eventually marrying them, has become commonplace.
“Oh, we met on Facebook,” one of my friends said of his wife, adding that it started with a simple exchange of names and chatting about hobbies and interests. After a few weeks of intensive communication on the Internet, the two decided to meet up in person. “We realized that we were meant for each other,” my friend said.
But the Internet has changed more than the dating lives of young people.
A decade ago, I couldn’t imagine my mother spending hours on the computer, but that has also changed. My mother is busy uploading photos to her Facebook account every night. And while doing this, she finds out what her old friends are doing, and comments on their photos.
My mother, who for the longest time refused to get a mobile phone, is now addicted to the Internet, which is a good thing for all us because it keeps her from complaining to her kids.
But it means I have to be extra cautious before posting a new Facebook update or uploading photos.
Checking out the latest information on Twitter or seeing what friends are doing on Facebook is all fine, but I don’t understand how so many people can spend hours on the Internet playing silly games. I mean, if you want to play video games, buy an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3.
It seems that virtual insanity has infected everybody in Jakarta. When young minds gather, the first sentence is still, “Hey! How are you doing?” But as they sit down, the next thing they do is check their Twitter accounts on their smartphones.
After 30 minutes of boring conversation, one of them takes out a laptop or an iPad from his or her bag. “Have you seen this funny video on YouTube?”
I predict that within 10 years, the Internet will have an even bigger role in our lives; ordering food, for example, will only be a few clicks away. And more people will find their partners on the Internet, and will probably be more comfortable meeting online than in a conventional manner. On the plus side, there will be no need for frustrating blind dates.
Tasa Nugraza Barley is a features reporter at the Jakarta Globe.