A few days ago, I received an email by a moderator of a Flickr group related to Art Box, a place in Second Life that I have already written about on this blog. The message was to let me know that a number of pictures I had added to their photo pool had been removed, because, according to the moderator, they had nothing to do with the aim of that specific group. Its objective, of course, is to gather photos taken at the Art Box in SL, where avatars can interact in 3D with reproductions of famous paintings and photographs of the atomic world.
I frankly don’t remember having added to that group any picture not related to the Art Box. Still, maybe I did it, by mistake. I don’t know which pictures were removed by the moderator, so let’s say they were right. In any case, their message was written as a threat. They did not only tell me that my images had been removed, but also they didn’t even consider the possibility of the presence of those photos there having been an accident. They assumed that I added the pics on purpose and that I don’t care (and let me highlight it: they said they are sure that I don’t care – how can they be?). They went on, saying that if I add one more photo to the group they will report me for violation of Flickr’s Terms of Service and asked me to leave the group before they’d ban me forever.
I’m not the most read blog author out there, but I like to think I contribute to let people know about some amazing places or experiences that one can find in Second Life. Sometimes I also try to address some subjects related to the SL community and, again, I do that when I consider I can add to the debate. In both cases, I try to be respectful towards other people, their opinions and their creations.
On the specific post in which I mention the Art Box in SL, I talk about the amazing experience that I had while visiting it. I took a series of pictures there and, to my knowledge, those were the only pictures that I had added to their Flickr group. Having had a good time there, having written enthusiastically about it and having enjoyed taking pictures there, I got really surprised, in a bad way, when I read the message sent by the group’s moderator. Of course, I removed all my remaining pictures from their pool and left the group, myself, because I don’t want to be where I’m not welcome.
Still, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on something that I have been seeing in SL repeatedly: a certain lack of kindness in many types of interactions. I see that a lot as a buyer. Recently, I bought something on the Marketplace and there was a problem with it. I searched for the creator’s profile in order to send them an IM and try to solve the problem, but first I cared to read their picks, where they had a word or two on their store policy. Surprisingly – again a bad surprise – I read a statement saying that all their products were previously tested and, if their items would present any issue, it was not their problem. Not only this seems to me as a bad policy, but also it is an unpleasant way to present oneself to their customers.
I have been on both sides in that game. I have already sold stuff in Second Life, myself, and I have never had a problem with a customer that could not be worked on. Sometimes things cannot be solved, it happens, but there would always be a way to deal with the problems. That’s why it’s even more surprising to me that store owners state their policies in unkind words (not necessarily offensive, yet unkind).
Maybe it’s a difference in culture. Maybe in the places where those people live, their words are not considered insensitive and my own cultural background causes me to be too sensitive to their eyes. Nonetheless, even if that is the case, it is worth noticing that SL is a place where different cultures meet. We could try not to assume things so fast – not to assume that people don’t care when they are accused of violating some rule, for instance – and, instead, be more open to each other. People are not perfect, they make mistakes, and cross-cultural communication may be difficult sometimes. We are all exposed to those problems, we all run the risk of being the ones who cause the problems. In such a world, only kindness can save us.