Editorial: How Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds and Social VR Platforms Can Reduce Isolation During a Potential SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

O.K. it’s time to inject a little levity (thanks, Neobela!):

It’s so funny because it’s true. Second Life users make friends and build communities not based on physical proximity, but on mental and emotional connections between their avatars. That very basic fact, common to all virtual worlds and social VR platforms, may be a life-saver to those people who, either by choice or by circumstance, are forced to self-isolate in their homes because of quarantines and the imposition of social distancing policies by their governments.

And it’s not just Second Life. It’s any virtual world, and the concept applies to the newer social VR platforms like Sansar, too.

I am one of those depressed people who often walks away from a real-world interaction with a friend or acquaintance with an uplift in my mood. And I know that I often can replicate that response, when I interact with other people in a virtual world, too. My brain literally does not know the difference between a real-world interaction and a virtual-world one, and it responds the same way.

Of course, this works both ways: someone in my real life or or in virtual one can just as easily bring me down and depress me further. But the fact remains that social VR platforms and virtual worlds are built on the foundation of human communication. It literally doesn’t matter if those humans are living right next door or at the other end of the globe in our modern era of information technology. We can find our own community, people who share our thoughts, goals, and dreams, and literally build new worlds!

So, while the SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 outbreak continues, don’t forget to sign into your favourite social VR/virtual world platform(s) from time to time, to reconnect with your communities.

Editorial: The Virus on Your Doorstep

Last night, a friend sent me the following message, along with a graph showing how the number of new daily cases of SARS-CoV-2 was slowly tapering down in China:

Might be good to post a bit of positive virus news? I certainly think balance is a good thing on a blog.

Yes, balance is important, and I will admit my coverage of the rapidly-evolving epidemic has been rather dire lately. Trying to find an appropriate balance when reporting about a potential pandemic situation is very difficult. And I do apologize if it’s bringing you down.

However, I would rather be accused of being Mr. Doom and Gloom if it meant that even just one person reading my blogposts about SARS-CoV-2 begins to take it seriously enough to prepare—mentally, emotionally, and physically—for a pandemic.

While the news out of China is somewhat encouraging (if we can trust the figures being released by the Chinese government), the fact remains that China has had to impose some severe, even draconian, measures to get those results: restricting the movements of millions of people and confining them to their homes, shutting down public transportation and factories and markets and all public gatherings.

The question remains: are countries outside China willing to go to the same extremes in order to halt further spread of the coronavirus?

Ask yourself: if you were forced, right now, to stay home for two weeks, without leaving to go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy, how well would you be able to adapt? That is exactly the situation now being faced by people in various communities in South Korea, Iran, and Italy. Next week, next month, next quarter, it could be your town or city.

I’ve been writing about the Wuhan coronavirus for one month now, on and off, and my message has always been the same: prepare. Prepare now, before the majority of people who aren’t paying attention are caught unprepared when an outbreak happens near you, and the panic shopping begins, despite public announcements for calm.

So I’m sorry if I’m bringing you down, but as a H5N1 bird flu prepper from way back in 2005/2006, and as a science librarian, I see what what is happening now as a serious wake-up call.

Yes, we dodged a bullet back in 2005/2006, but I can tell you this: we aren’t going to be so lucky this time around. The H5N1 bird flu died out because sustained human-to-human transmission proved too difficult. But SARS-CoV-2 is proving itself surprisingly adept at human-to-human transmission. We have a sprightly virus on our hands!

The virus is already out there circulating and one day, it will be at your doorstep. Don’t panic, but prepare.

Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):

If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are three good places to check:

Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!