I read through the pre-event activities, and set them aside. I decide to do other things. Signing up to second life is pissing me off.
I spent some time thinking about my reaction. I'm signed up to a fair few social software services. I was an early adopter of Flickr. I like Flickr. I pay for an account, so I don't get the risk of advertising. I was irked when I had to switch my Flickr ID for a Yahoo! ID, and thought about leaving the service - but several of my friends are quite active on Flickr, and I don't see them as much as I'd like to, and their photostreams are a regular source of interest, comfort, and amusement. Flickr is useful to me as a place to stick my snaps, but, more, it is socially useful because my friends use it too. So I stayed on. The Yahoo! ID thing isn't too annoying if I don't think too deeply about it, and recently it looks like Yahoo! embracing OpenID, so maybe they are headed in the right direction after all.
If I am honest, I find the commodification and monetisation of friendships and other social relationships on the headline social networking sites such as Facebook deeply unsettling. I understand that my clicks, my tags, my attention is being monetised by Flickr as much as it is by Facebook. But this is like Tesco's club card. If it's evil, it's with a small "e" - and I can monkey around with Tesco's profiling by offering to swap shopping with my sister now and then. In a perverse kind of way, I'm almost happy with the profiling. It grants me, if not immortality, a certain longevity in zeros and ones. Perhaps it may be sufficient to inscribe "Google me" on my tombstone, at least for a few years after I die...
What does bother me is how social networking sites commodify human relationships, creating the kind of "marketing personality" that Oliver James describes in his book, Affluenza. There's no doubt that, to use James's terms, they are vectors of the Affluenza virus, and they have a pernicious, corrosive effect on human relationships, for all the benefits they bring. I get round my discomfort by trying to not play the game. I try not to fall into the commodification traps these sites set. I suspect with only limited success.
Second Life is another thing entirely. Intended to be "immersive", you are bound by its rules, its grating insistence on the triumph of capitalism, its banalisation of the imagination, its reification of the pabula of Hollywood. The rules are not up for negotiation. In Second Life, exploring new social models is reduced to casual sex with dinosaurs. Confronted with SL, I come over all William Blake - "I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand".