But just because the apple of your avatar eye shares similar interests, that doesn’t mean you should go in for an immediate hug.
“Personal boundaries are just as important in a virtual world as they are in real life,” Durrett stressed.
While Laabs expounded the positive virtues of Second Life, he acknowledged its darker side. People can be indecent, offensive, intolerant and sexually harass others. People have also reported avatar rape. Typically, users encounter the act through three scenarios: Luring others, purchasing or roll-playing or "griefing" it, which means to cause grief.
Laabs compared the virtual world to a 3-D version of the Web and encourages people to be vigilant. Establish personal boundaries as you might in real life -– through communication via Second Life’s chat rooms, instant messaging and voice chat.
Obey the Rules
You wouldn’t take a date to a Trekkie convention dressed like Han Solo, now would you? The same applies in your virtual world.
“You need to be true to the experience,” Laabs said. “If you’re in a vampire role-playing area, you need to keep those personas. Otherwise people are just going to kick you out.”
But if you need help learning the ropes, besides Second Life’s quick-start instruction manual, Laabs says the roughly 1 million monthly users will be quick to lend a helping, virtual hand.
Keep in mind that many of the virtual world's codes of conduct are prefaced by the phrase “as you would in real life,” with one glaring difference: You can always create a new character and wipe the slate clean if you mess up.