She’s not me

Not long ago, Honour posted a piece on how, in order to get things done in-world, she sometimes resorts to using an alt. Doing so allows her to focus on what she’s doing without the distractions of IMs, people dropping in or whatever. Last on, she followed-up with a piece commenting that despite the fact she does use an alt – she doesn’t consider the alt to be “her”.

I know what Honour means.

I’ve had an alt since 2008. (Actually, I technically have 2 alts – but one is located on a Destination Island, where I use it to see if there have been any tweaks to the in-world side of the sign-up process, so I ignore it, as it’ll never see serious use anywhere else). She was created after my main account appeared broken, and i needed an account simply to be able to get in-world while my main account was “fixed”.

Wizardhat Studios
WizardHat Studios

Fortunately, the account issues were resolved after a few days, and so the alt disappeared into a box, making only occasional appearances in-world. More recently, she seen rather more use, as I tend to use her to fiddle with project and experimental viewers, a move which prompted me to dub her my “Crash Test Alt”.

Over the last few months, this use has grown to include me sometimes using her to attend in-world Lab meetings (generally as a result of me already being logged-in with her & being to bone-idle to swap accounts / viewers), and occasionally slipping in to scout-out regions I might blog about at some point. Even so, through all this time, I’ve never regarded her as “me”; in my mind she is always, “her”, “she” or “it”.

WizardHat Studios
WizardHat Studios

My reaction probably isn’t that unusual; many of us have a particular avatar in SL into which we pour not only a lot of creative effort, but also a lot of our own personality as well, so much so that there is an indelible line which connects us in a very personal and unique way to that avatar which goes beyond matters of money spent or inventory built up.

Even so, I find my lack of identification with my alt interesting. Other than tweaking her shape and getting her a decent skin, I’ve never seen the need to invest in any clothes or shoes for her. To this day, she’s still wears the outfit she was wearing when first rezzed. It’s not that I can’t define or afford a look for her; I simply don’t see the point of doing so. She doesn’t even have a profile picture of herself.


My inability to identify with her manifests in other ways as well. As I mentioned above, I sometimes use her to slip into SL to scout regions I might blog about. But then I do this, I find that I have considerable difficulty in taking snapshots using her; I can’t settle on camera angles or decide on appropriate windlight settings or the best time of day to frame a shot. Then, even when I do eventually land a series of snaps, I’m completely dissatisfied with them and end up deleting them and swapping back over to my main and starting again. I may be far from the top-flight photographers who inhabit Second Life, but it’s almost as if what abilities I do have when it coming to taking in-world photos is wholly invested in Inara Pey, and it is only with her that I have any confidence that what I’m trying to frame may be worth showing to others.

Winter Moon
Winter Moon

My alt isn’t hard to spot. Not only is she still in 2008 “female musician” threads and boots, her group tag tends to read “Inara Pey incognito”, which is a bit of a giveaway, I know. I created it to try and make me feel a little easier with using her; not that it seems to be working.

So if you come across her meandering around, and conversation seems odd or awkward when chatting, don’t worry. It’s not that I don’t want to be disturbed or that I’m trying to avoid contact.

It’s just that I’m borrowing someone else’s body for a while, and it doesn’t quite fit.

11 thoughts on “She’s not me

  1. Inara —

    I totally share your experience! I have an alt — under my old, married name — that I use when I need to log into a grid through two viewers at once for testing something. She has different hair than my regular avatar, and I haven’t bothered to do anything with her clothes. When I move her around, it doesn’t feel that *I* am moving around, but that I am moving a doll around.

    This is one of the reasons I hate visiting closed grids — I have to create new avatars when I go there, and uploading all my regular avatar stuff takes just way too much time and effort, so I normally don’t bother. I wind up feeling like an impostor. I don’t have problems taking pictures, but I do have problems talking to people. Especially since nobody likes talking to a noob avie with no personal info filled in! The avatars that I do spend time on — my own grid, OSgrid, Second Life — I try to have them look as much alike as possible, and have the same name, so that I feel present in them.


    1. The analogy of a doll is a good one – I do very much feel like I’m consciously “posing” and moving my alt around, rather than simply enjoying the in-world experience.

      I almost commented on my use of OpenSim, but stayed away, as I didn’t want to belabour my feelings :). However, I think the identification I have with my main SL account is one of the reasons why, despite having accounts on OSGrid, Avination, InWorldz, Kitely (and a few others!) all under the name of “Inara Pey”, I rarely use them; I simply don’t feel at home in them. Unless I’m involved in building in either Kitely or InWorldz, I find myself looking at the avatars I’ve created for other grids as something a step away from being “me”. I think this is best reflected (again) in the huge amount of time I spent in Kitely not so much building “Fallingwater”, but struggling to take pictures of the build I was satisfied with…


  2. I am an extensive user of alts. I have often said that my alts are legion.
    From my very beginning in SL I have had 4 alts that are “me” and reflect my moods. I also have several alts that are “tools”, in world displays of clothing, someone sitting at the bar, etc. and one that is for testing.
    Since my RL is securely walled off from my SL, I see no conflict here, whoever you see in world is who I am in that moment.
    On the other hand I am not one to use my alts to create drama. Those who use alts in that way give the creative use of alts a bad name.


    1. Yup,

      I know a good few people who have several alts and move between them quite happily – each one represents either a facet of their personality or fulfils a specific role within Second Life. One friend in particular has his “daily” avatar, but then uses another to run his business, and has around three or four (I’m not actually sure how many) for his involvement in various role-play activities.

      This is also where I find my own situation novel. I came into SL in 2006, spent time here and then stayed away for several months. When I returned at the end of that year, I created “Inara Pey” specifically to be a role-play creation; she was never intended to be anything else or to be in any way reflective of who I am, other than in sharing some of my values. Instead, she’s very much become a digital reflection of my personality and also, since 2010, an outward expression of my affinity for things which have had a lasting impression on my real life, but which are not always easy or obvious to express. She’s also come to have a degree of influence on my real-world thinking and views as a result of her presence in SL and the interactions I’ve had with others through her.

      Whether this marks me out as more of an agumentist than immersionist (and I consider myself more of the latter than the former) I’ve no idea. Perhaps it’s not indicative of anything in particular, and is just another aspect of the many and varied ways we’re affected by the virtual as we go about interacting with it.


  3. That’s it. I couldn’t put my finger on it until you said it. Maybe the following analogy works, I don’t know:

    An alt is like a yahoo mail account 😉

    I’ve always had this idea that I could use my SL alt to create a whole new identity and use her to enter into some other, completely different aspect of Second Life. The truth of the matter is that I never get that far. I always wind up feeling overwhelmed by what it would take to build a whole new person inside of that avatar.

    When I’ve logged into other grids, I always choose “Sachie Bade” as the avatar’s name in an attempt to connect emotionally, but it never feels right. The other- grids Sachie feels like an account, I guess, rather than a wholly fleshed-out being.

    It’s like I can’t get away from the five or so years of being Sachie in Sachie Bade. She has this life that somehow belongs exclusively to her.

    How wonderful and strange!


  4. I sometimes log an alt, but it’s more to just observe and not engage in conversation. My friends know who the alt is. And she too, bears the title “I am Skylar Smythe’s alt” in her bio 🙂

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with creating alts for different experiences. Or to be free to explore unbothered. Where I have a problem is abnormal psychology inworld where alts are created for nefarious social reasons. Griefers. People who “spy” on pixelated significant others. Stalkers. It happens. I’ve been the victim of it.

    But for 99.9% of the time, when I do make time to log in for an event or a business reason… it’s just me. Skylar Smythe EST. 2007. And if I am too busy, I have no problem saying “I’d love to talk but I am with someone right now”. Honesty works too 🙂


    1. I don’t have a problem with alts at all, other than my own inability to simply get on and use mine without feeling awkward “in” her. Like you, I’m an observer, and I do like to log-in to SL at times and simply going somewhere and watch (I’m also a people-watcher in RL, and love nothing more than sitting outside at a cafe somewhere sipping a latte or something, and just watching the world go by, noting interactions between couple, friends and strangers alike – I actually like doing that when on holiday far more than I do sitting on a beach).

      The griefing element is a problem, and in some respects the nature of the beast – which is not to say that I in any way condone griefing / stalking activities. But SL is by its nature an “open” environment; and as we know only too well, there are people who will seek to abuse the liberties they are granted. There are signs that LL are starting to be more active in matters once more (the Goverance Team appears to be back, if still low-key), but perhaps that’s a subject for another blog post :).


  5. I experience a similar disconnect with my ‘working’ alt …who I also use at times to go about my creative work without being disturbed . While I don’t spend much time or lindens on his looks, I must say I’m just vain enough to have begrudgingly shared my well protected appearance ‘numbers’ while holding back on giving him full access to my inventory (wouldn’t that be nice?). Seriously being able to share inventory with ones alt would be a good thing when going about one’s work .. incognito. Speaking of . I believe I saw the ‘incognito’ tag recently out testing/exploring near by. 😉


    1. Hi, Ty!

      Shared inventory between accounts would be an excellent move, if it could be done. Cairan Laval put forward a suggestion of “master accounts” to make this happen a good while back. Pity the idea hasn’t been taken-up / isn’t feasible.

      Yup, You saw my alt not long ago … lurking while fiddling with a viewer :).


  6. I can relate to this. My alt is almost a carbon copy of me, aside from her color scheme, but still is ‘not me’ in very real experiential ways. She has her uses, mainly relating to how she often expedites building tasks, so I keep her around, but I never feel like I’m doing anything but driving around a spare body.


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