Monday, May 18, 2015

To be unique, original and special (Or not to be)

This post came as a consequence of wanting to participate in another of Berry's Monday challenges. Of course, I had to derail myself, but I promise that if you keep reading... I eventually get there!

I'm not sure if being original/unique has ever been a concern to me, or something I did brag about. (Asking to people that know me for long, they say they don't remember this.) I know I wanted to be special to some people when I was a little girl (my parents; who doesn't want to be special to their own parents?), but after my failure, even being special was something I was no longer interested into.

If you think about it just for a moment, the genetic variability alone implies that each one of us is, by definition, unique. Then why do we worry so much? You may tell me that's not true, we don't worry or, at least, you don't worry. Well, it's possible. But my observations make me think differently about it.

For example, as soon as someone says anything about what normal people do, many others around will start saying things like but who wants to be normal?, normal is overrated, normal is boring, I embrace my crazy, normal is for losers, what is normal, anyway?... You get the idea. I would be surprised if you've never heard/read anything like this.

It's my impression that some (many?) people fear to be labeled, as if that would make them lose their uniqueness. The problem I see is that by rushing yourself into screaming loud you're unique, you're original, normal is overrated, and so on... You're labeling yourself as someone who belongs to the set of people that say they're unique, original and normal is overrated. Which is quite of a huge set with so many people in it, and if you know that normal refers to average... Yes, the irony is that by screaming how unique, original, etc. you are, you're actually being quite normal.

Personally, I want to be what we understand as a normal person with a normal life. Family, dog(s), cats, weekends... all that. I don't fear normality. I'm not interested in being special nor in proving how original and unique I am. I don't fear not being recognized in a crowd. That can be an advantage more often than not.

I have no problem at all if you (generic you), on the other hand, want to be unique, special, original... However you call it. I would ask only for one tiny detail. If you claim to be original, unique... then, for kitties' sake, do not fall into contradictions and stereotypes. Do not be that predictable.

Yes, it's really facepalming reading one, several, or all of the following statements, when someone claims to be original, unique:

  • Quotes from famous people. Particularly when the attribution is incorrect. (I'm sure that Albert Einstein would be surprised of all the things that people say, he said.) But this always makes me raise an eyebrow because if you're so original and unique, why don't you create your own quotes? Why do you have to use (or copy/paste, when on Internet) what others say?
  • Speaking of quotes: Spreading motivational quotes is quite non-original, if you're concerned about being original. Also, have you ever thought about the implications of those, apparently, motivating quotes? I promise that some day, I have to dissect some of my favorite ones.
  • I'm not your typical woman/man (My typical woman/man say that they're not typical.)
  • Laugh about normality and say that crazy is all the rage and how you roll. Until someone suggests that you could be crazy. For real. Then you quickly claim you're normal, not sick. (Since we're talking averages, would you like to know how normal is to be sick?)
  • No copy/no modify/no transfer (Like all the other people that also write that)
  • I'm not your typical bitch (Extra points at the use of the word bitch; rant material for another moment)

It's a short list because I didn't want to spend a long time compiling all the things I've seen, but you get the idea. I admit that I may fall into one or several of the categories above, but I don't claim that I'm unique/original/special, nor that I'm over being normal, so I can indulge in the pleasures of normality and falling into stereotypes without contradicting myself :-)

I couldn't help thinking of all this as Lelutka's mesh heads were announced, and released. Many people said "yes, they're pretty, but what about my uniqueness? I don't want to look like a clone."

I have some thoughts about this. ("Is there anything you have no thoughts about?" Good point.)

I like my SL-face. I've mixed aspects of my RL face with aspects of one fantasy character from my childhood until I got my current face, which now stands for almost two years. I would love if there was a mesh head exactly like that: The time I would save smoothing edges when I take a close-up! (Or just so I don't feel bad for not smoothing them when I have no time.)

But I don't put my uniqueness, my identity, into my SL-face. In fact, I'm not afraid of looking like a clone. I like these mesh heads, and I use them. Not daily, but I use them. The ones I use nowadays are Lelutka's heads and the new Lilith from Genesis Lab, which shows in the ads for my new releases at World Goth Fair. Because I'm not attached to my SL-face when using a mesh head, I can play more with different skin tones, tones that at times do not sit well in my SL-face.

When I think about it, I really don't understand why that fear about looking like clones with mesh heads. Back in 2009, some Redgrave skins were all the rage, and all girls using those skins looked all the same. It was like that too, with some LAQ skins that were pretty common in 2009, 2010 and even 2011. And what about Curio skins? They were beautiful, but I was unable to distinguish the girls using them. Things are even worse with male skins. Those BadAzz ones? Yep, don't ask me to tell you what makes guys using them different one from the other.

My point with this is that many of our faces have been looking quite like others all the time. Why does the concern show now, with mesh heads?

Some mesh heads allow for appliers, and they can look quite different depending on the skin applier used. Makeup adds another layer of variety, and then there's your own style. The head is not the whole you. It should not be.

And now finally... On to Berry's Challenge (Told you I would eventually get here.)

Meme Instructions: Share your avatar's digits and/or answer the following questions about mesh bodies.

  • Do you currently own a mesh body? If so, do you wear it all the time or just once in a while? If not, skip to the fourth question.

    Currently, I own several mesh bodies, but the only one I use since it came out is Maitreya. I use it for photos and when I'm at home alone/with Ansel. I try not to use it when I go to places, because it causes extra stress on the graphics cards of everybody around me. If the place is lonely and I want to take pictures, then I wear it.

  • What is your preferred mesh body available on the market right now?

    No doubts here: Maitreya Lara

  • Have you changed your shape since you started wearing the body?

    No. In fact, that's been what made me decide for Maitreya.

    I wanted the mesh body fitting to my sliders, so whether I'm wearing the mesh body or not, my shape is basically the same (particularly, the hip curve; the rest, I don't mind that much if it's a little different). Wowmeh was quite close to this, but it wasn't optimal and it was retired from the market anyway. Maitreya was the next one achieving this, fitting to my shape, and so I'm sticking to it.

  • How do you feel about mesh bodies in general?

    I like them: They save time editing pictures and, of course, look better than the default SL avatar. I wish I could wear mine all the time, but I'm aware of the stress they cause on slow connections and machines, so I try not punishing others just because I want to look pretty no matter the cost, 24x7.

  • What is one thing you would request from designers when it comes to mesh bodies?

    Stick to the UVs of the SL avatar so creators can use their textures without having to work special versions that will fit only one body. That's a mistake Belleza did with Venus, with their hands and feet having different UVs than the SL avatar has. The Omega system cannot convert textures, and creators are already too busy making appliers, as to having to also take on the work of creating a different set of textures for one particular body.

    We know that the UVs of the SL avatar are far from perfect, but mesh bodies could be designed to have different textures applied on left and right arms/feet, using the UVs of the SL avatar. There's no need to use your own and forcing creators to make work specifically for them. Knowing how quickly things happen in the fashion scene, there's no way that creators will seriously consider on all this extra work, for an item that won't be used anymore even before they've had time to complete that extra version.


Mesh body: Lara, from Maitreya
Mesh head: Stella, from Lelutka

Skin: Stella Applier, Jamaica, from Glam Affair
Lipstick: Included in Stella Applier
Hair: booN AAN330, red, from booN hair (boo Nakamura)

Dress: Gloriosa, white gold, from -just a girl- (Clarrellae Resident)
Tiara: Eldar Tiara Gold, from Le Forme (Louise Marsault)

Necklace: Aeranae's Embrace Necklace, from Empyrean Forge (EmpyreanForge Resident)
Head adornment: Aeranae's Embrace Adornment, from Empyrean Forge (EmpyreanForge Resident)
(Thanks, Kinn, for telling me about those!)

Pose: Dark Fairy #13, Black Tulip (mine)

Windlight: Phototools- No Light


  1. I think, for me anyway, it's not so much a quest to be unique as it is just to look like me- and I can't do that with mesh heads. I've tried several demos and played around with them... but I just don't feel like me.

    A recurring theme of mine is that we are all in SL for different reasons, seeking different things. Some are actors, photographers (of the artistic variety, unlike me!), some are in SL to play grown-up Barbies, some built, etc., etc., and that's all okay. Better than okay. It's wonderful! So some are perfectly fine with looking like clones. The mesh heads are gorgeous and people look gorgeous wearing them. Some people prefer a different look. Both are equally acceptable and awesome. There are some people I've seen with 8 or 9 year old avatars that still look the same as the day they joined. If it works for them, cool.

    I may not understand why some choose to look the way they look, be it unique or completely cookie-cutter, but I respect their choices so long as it makes them happy. :-)

    1. Not feeling like you in one of them is reason enough not to wear them, if you're after a high-resolution replacement of the SL-avatar face. If I ever argue that decision, please smack me :-) (Not too hard, if possible.)

      I don't feel like me either in them. But I like playing the grown-up Barbie, and I like playing with many kinds of toys in SL, for my photos (like the Doll avatar). At times, these heads are exactly the expression I'm after. I'm not afraid of looking like others when using them, like I'm not afraid of looking like the others when they wear the Doll avatar and so do I.

      I've read many people saying just as you: they don't feel like themselves in the head, and so they don't use it. Which is perfectly fine.

      Then I've read people saying a little more: mesh heads are the new evil that will turn everybody in clones, everybody will lose what makes them unique. They haven't said the new evil explicitly, but the way it's said, sounds a little like that. It is then when I begin to wonder.

      It's interesting to me to observe that possible relationship between virtual uniqueness and virtual identity. Somehow, I think I could remove both instances of the virtual word in the previous phrase.

      Is that feeling tied to the concern about losing our own identity if we look exactly the same as others in a virtual world?

      Someone mentioned in my feed yesterday (I was too tired to reply at that moment), that since people are wearing these mesh heads, they have to move the mouse so the name shows, to know who did the photo.

      Interestingly, that happens to me before these mesh heads were all the rage. I cannot know who the creators of some photos are, because their style has nothing that makes me distinguish them from others. If we're worried about being unique, then in my eyes, mesh heads aren't what will turn you into a clone.

      I'm not a mesh head defender. Nor a mesh head hater. Actually, my point goes beyond mesh heads themselves, but for some reason, that's the only point in my whole rant that is being commented. That is also quite interesting.

      I was trying to talk about, what gives shape to our virtual identity? (Unsuccessfully)

      Do we want to be unique? Do we loathe the normal? Then why I've observed similar patterns right after the words I'm original/unique/special come out of their mouths? Why the concern anyway, why needing to say out loud? Do we realize of how common, how normal it is, to loathe the normal? Do we realize about these little contradictions that push us into being more like others, which is the opposite of what we want/believe we are?

      I mentioned mesh heads because it seems we put a lot of our identity, if not all, in our looks ("I don't want to be like the others", I've read). And inevitably, I can't but wonder, it matters not who we are, what we say, how we behave, but only how our face looks, in order to define our virtual selves?

      I've recognized people using these heads, in Flickr. I've done because they have their characteristic style. No amount of mesh cloning could make their photos less distinguishable. On the other hand, there are people without mesh heads that look all alike to me, and even their photo styles. I cannot tell who they are.

      So that's why I wonder: What makes you to be you? Is your face what completely defines you? How concerned are you about being unique? Enough as to say out loud I'm unique/original/special? Do you think in that case, it will be the mesh head what will take all of your uniqueness away from you?

      Personally, I like to think that we're more than just mesh heads.

    2. Likely, I haven't gotten to my point this time either, but it's fine, this seems like one of those times when I explain myself with the clarity of a closed book =)

      Also, the questions aren't directed to you specifically. They're just questions I throw to the air, like if I were talking with many people and I were asking to all of them. Rhetoric maybe? I don't know. At times I sound like the Devil's Attorney, when all I do is just throwing out questions to try to get answers and understand.

      Did I make sense with this? Should I go back to bed? %-)

      And I must laugh at myself: I've had to split the comment in two parts, because I've hit a limit I didn't know Blogger has, about comments length :-D (4096 characters.)

      (Of course, if there was someone to find out about that limit, that would be me.)

    3. I do see your point.

      Yes, there are an awful lot of people who like to yell about how unique they are and I wonder if most of those (mostly) women are younger. I know peer pressure has a big influence on girls when they are in school and we all seem to sort of go through a bit of an epiphany as we start to age where we realize it's okay not to be part of the status quo.

      As we get older, and more comfortable in our own skin (virtual or otherwise), I think we're less likely to feel the need to point out our own individuality as it comes through in our personalities, as well as whatever individual style we pick up along the way.

      I haven't been in my teens or early twenties in quite some time so I'm not sure if that pressure to conform is still there like it was back in the olden days. ;-)

      Some women feel the need to make sure everyone knows they're unique and proud of it- the same way some women like to wear the bitch label as if it's something to be proud of. Oftentimes the two are combined. I think it says more about their sense of self-worth and self-esteem than it does anything else.

    4. I have observed that need of screaming "I'm unique!" in women of all ages, but what I've seen is similar to what you say: it's less likely finding older women saying so. It's interesting highlighting gender, because I hadn't realized until you said that the (big) majority of people I've observed having this need of saying/proving "I'm unique"... they're women. (It doesn't mean necessarily, though, that when this happens, chances are high that it will be a woman. I guess that a serious series of studies could bring light on that - if someone ever considers this something worth it to be studied.)

      I had also forgotten about this phenomenon until I came to SL. Once in SL, I see again this behaviour in avatar profiles and social media (but also... in non SL-social media). It's like if Facebook and similar brought out the stupid in us for the world to see... and we voluntarily and happily decided to participate from that circus (as inadvertent clowns). That makes me think too.

      The pressure to conform was quite hard where I live. I ended up cutting ties with anyone that still in my early 30's was insisting in deciding that I should have kids, etc. That means I barely talk to anybody in the physical world, but I'm a lot happier than when I had all that people nagging and wanting to decide how I should live and feel my life, telling me how wrong I was and how much I would regret. "We've seen the light and we've now come to preach the happiness you can find in it. And if you don't want to see the light with us, we'll force you". Yes, that sounds exactly as what you have in mind. I don't miss them.

      And women calling themselves "bitch"... Don't get me started. Particularly on those that after saying all around "I'm a bitch, don't mess with me", get mad at a man that tells them "wow, you sure are a bitch". Well heck. Maybe quit being a bitch, if as it turns out, you don't like being called that?

      (No more than 4096 characters this time. Yay me! \o/)

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  3. Hey Auryn, this is a good post and I couldn't agree with you more. I have a similar argument with people who have tattoos (in RL) on the premise that it makes them unique, when I know that the designs they adopted came from a book, or at best someone else's imagination. In the same way, even a completely custom made tattoo in RL only helps to squarely box you into the category of people that wear tattoos - which incidentally have historically been used to signal one's affiliation to a tribe or group. Oh the irony.

    By the way, how can I follow your blog by email. I'm looking everywhere but can't find the place where I can put my email so that I can get posts to it.

    1. Hi, Becky :-)

      First things first: I've added a "follow by e-mail" plugin at the top of the left column. I hope that works! (It's something I never thought of adding, even though I use it myself.)

      It's the premise, like you say, the problem. I am not going to argue with people if they want to have tattoos or not. It's their decision. If they tell me they do it because they want one, that's all about it. But if they tell me they do it because that makes them unique, then I may argue their position or, at least, raise an eyebrow.

      I have more thoughts coming back and forth, but until they take a defined shape, I'll leave this here (so at least you know the plugin is up).

      Have a great day :-)