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Learning From Virtual Spending

Posted By Jim On 10/04/2007 @ 8:31 am In Personal Finance | 3 Comments

The NY Times has an interesting, or not interesting at all depending on your perspective, article about the need for more stuff in the virtual world [3] of Second Life. That’s right, in a virtual world where the objects are not real, people are paying are actually paying out real money (by proxy in terms of Linden dollars) to buy stuff. People are working “jobs,” getting paid, and buying new hair, clothes, etc.

What people spending money on in Second Life, a virtual world that has no bearing on real life, is very much like what we collectively spend money on in real life. People works so they can afford to buy new hair styles, new clothes, new bodies; just so they don’t look like the newbie on the block. Having never played Second Life for more than a few minutes to see what the buzz was about, I can’t speak from personal experience, but in reading that article it sounds like people still feel a need to “fit in” by not looking like the “lowest class,” the newbies. They go to bars, they buy virtual drinks that don’t do anything, and all the while they work jobs so they have Linden dollars to spend on things that don’t at all matter. “They don’t need to have drinks in their hands at the virtual bar, but they buy cocktails anyway, just to look right, to feel comfortable.”

What can we learn from this? In Second Life, the money is practically meaningless (40k Linden = $150 USD), but in real life the money is very much real ($1 USD = $1 USD ) and one should try to spend as little “fitting in” money as possible. It’s one thing to buy a pair of jeans because you think they look nice, they’re comfortable, or whatever other personal reason that would compel you to buy jeans. It’s another thing if you’re buying them because you think it’ll make you feel like you’re fitting in but you otherwise wouldn’t want to. This is how people end up buying expensive cars or jewelry that they think will garner them respect (perhaps for their earning prowess) but ultimately bring little internal happiness to their lives.

How’s this for a great quote from the article:

“It’s hard not to fall into that [referring to buying new clothes so you don't stick at out a newbie],” Mr. Yee [doctorate from Stanford in communication] said. “There are shops everywhere, so it’s easy to say, ‘Oh, O.K., I guess I’ll get a better pair of jeans.’ ”

Sounds like a mall.


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[3] more stuff in the virtual world: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/business/yourmoney/09second.html

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