Second Life

Does looking at everyone else’s “Insta-perfect” snaps and Facebook happy families leave you feeling somewhat inadequate? If it does, you are not alone. Researchers have found that heavy Facebook use may make certain people experience feelings of envy, which in turn could lead to depression.

Second Life

How would you like to have a second life where all of your inadequacies melt away with the click of a button?

Invented in 2003, Second Life is an online platform that allows people to create a computer-generated identity for themselves and have a second life in an online virtual world. Exploding into oblivion in the early 2000s, Second Life seemed to come and go in a Dotcom-burst bubble, losing out to giants such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube but, perhaps due to the worldwide COVID lockdowns, it now reports having 900,000 regular users. A similar platform, Animal Crossing, has more than 200,000 active users.

These virtual worlds promise that users can be whoever they want to be, look however they want to look, and do whatever they want to do. Users can customise their appearance and spend actual hard-earned money buying fashionable clothes for their avatar and virtual furniture and art to furnish their virtual homes in their fabulous virtual life. All very well until one comes crashing back to earth in the real world of a cold lonely flat, with a receding hairline and an expanding waistline.   

What drives users of these platforms to flee the reality of their lives is a desire for something better. A sense that they are missing out on something and that, perhaps, in the virtual world they will be pretty enough, smart enough, fashionable enough to be accepted and find satisfaction. This all points to the need for something outside of ourselves, proverbially described as a “God-shaped” hole in the human soul. As Augustine of Hippo said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”. Humanity today is plagued with the sense that something quite fundamental to our existence is missing in the life that has left God out of the equation.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He was stating that His coming into the world was in order that humanity could enjoy life as it was intended to be, life in all its fullness. The Christian does not find the abundant life in natural things, far less in virtual things, but in spiritual and eternal things, namely in a personal relationship with the God of the Bible.

While the virtual world has some appeal, if the pandemic has taught us anything it is that human touch is something so essential and powerful that no virtual experience can replace it. As much as we cannot be content without human touch, neither can our souls be content without the touch of God. The abundant life is to be found in a living relationship with our Creator God. This was made possible through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, which met the righteous demands of a holy God against sin, and His resurrection from the dead on the third day, which confirmed that God was satisfied with what He had achieved. He gave His life so that we might have new and eternal life through faith in Him.  

Through confession of our sin, demonstrating a change in heart towards God (the Bible calls this repentance), and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ we can have a “Second Life”, an abundant life, a life truly worth having. The Bible puts it like this: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Further than that, future, eternal happiness is guaranteed: “You [God] will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).