Dec 17 2008
Okay, here’s an interesting one. Gore Verbinski (he of Pirate o’ da Caribbean fame) is planning to direct a movie about a woman who’s husband had an affair……online. Inspired by an Alexandra Alter article last year in the Wall Street Journal, Verbinski wants to tell the story of a Sue Hoogestraat who wants to leave her husband when she discovers he has another wife, Tenaj, in the online world Second Life.
In Webland, the online couple (named Dutch and Tenaj Hoorenbeek) have two dogs, a mortgage and go shopping together. The husband’s argument is that it is just a game. He has never actually met his online wife and argues that his own wife spends hours watching TV – he spends his time online and sees no difference. Ric Hoogestraat has tried to get Sue involved in his online world but she’s not interested.
He makes a good argument on the surface. Surely it’s just fantasy – he idles away his time online interacting with other avatars, while Sue watches Oprah, Ellen and dog shows on TV. Reading Alter’s article, you realise the scale of the ‘problem’:
Mrs. Hoogestraat pauses on her way to the kitchen and glances at the screen.
“You didn’t eat your breakfast,” she says.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see it there,” he responds.
“They probably won’t taste any good now,” she says, taking the plate.
By 4 p.m., he’s been in Second Life for 10 hours, pausing only to go to the bathroom. His wrists and fingers ache from manipulating the mouse to draw logos for his virtual coffee cups. His back hurts. He feels it’s worth the effort. “If I work a little harder and make it a little nicer, it’s more rewarding,” he says.
Sitting alone in the living room in front of the television, Mrs. Hoogestraat says she worries it will be years before her husband realizes that he’s traded his real life for a pixilated fantasy existence, one that doesn’t include her.
I think it’s fair to say that most people reading this blog have a fairly active online life. We blog, we read, we Facebook, some Twitter, some play games. Over this past year I’ve met so many people online who have become great friends. At what point does it become unhealthy?
For Ric and Sue Hoogestraat (who met online incidentally) there are clearly a lot of issues to work on. But is your online life interfering with your real world? Is your real life getting in the way of all you want to do online? Where is the perfect balance or is there one?
Note: Chart from Alexandra Alter’s Wall Street Journal Article