Thoughts on Netflix’s ‘Life 2.0’: Does Second Life Really Wreck Marriages And Lead to Divorce?

A scene from second life, with a woman avatar standing on a balcony looking at a city scape at night.
In ‘Second Life’ people create Avatars which they use to live out their second lives in the game, which for some people includes sexual and emotional affairs.

If you haven’t watched Life 2.0 on Netflix, you really should. It somehow manages to be both interesting and incredibly depressing at the same time, rather like the proverbial train wreck you can’t look away from. And not because Netflix did a bad job of putting it together, but rather because the subject it addresses is rather disturbing. If you’re curious, you should go and check it out for yourself without reading any further, because… spoiler alert!

What you need to know to understand the film:

This feature-length documentary follows the lives of several different people whose real lives are utterly transformed by their participation in the online game Second Life. For those of you who enjoy their real lives enough to have made it this far without needing to live vicariously through a digital avatar, Second Life is an online virtual world where users (called ‘residents’) live out their lives through the virtual avatars of themselves they’ve created. This life includes hanging out with friends, having relationships, buying homes, vacationing, and shopping. But what does this have to do with divorce, you wonder?

What is Life 2.0 all about? And what is Second Life?

The documentary follows the life of four people participating in Second Life at a rather extreme level. One is a woman who makes money there as a job, one is a man who lives out his life through his avatar as a 12-year-old girl, and the last two are a couple. And that’s what we wanted to talk to you about – the couple. Because they aren’t a couple in real life (Life 1.0), they’re only a couple in the game. They spend hours and hours living out their fantasy life together online (although both are married with children in real life), and after a few years of this emotional affair they decide to meet for real.

What happens next…? Did the couple work it out?

They meet for real (he travels from Canada to meet her in the U.S.) and they spend a magical weekend together. Put that on repeat a few times, and it’s official – they’re in love and they want to get married. She leaves her husband, he leaves his wife, and he moves to the U.S. to start life over with her. But as it turns out, real life is a lot harder than a fantasy life. In Second Life, no one has to work, clean their house, deal with daily drama, or handle their kids. So while their fantasy romance had developed in a world where reality held no sway, and there were no stressors, when put to the test in the real world, it fell apart.

Does this happen often? Do many people in Second Life have affairs?

Unsurprisingly, Second Life is home to a bounty of illicit relationships. You don’t have to dig deep to find countless media articles, blog posts, and studies done on the extra-marital relationships that take place inside virtual online games. But what does that mean for your real-life relationship? For many people, their Second Life relationships eventually damage their real-life marriages. Whether the guilt drives them to confess, or they seek out their S.L partner in RL and the affair becomes a physical one, in the end, their marriages don’t survive.

How can you keep this from happening to your marriage?

While there are no ways to ensure that you and your spouse don’t encounter this difficult issue in your marriage, perhaps a talk about honesty and openness can help reduce the chances in the future. Sharing online gaming passwords with each other, setting limits you can both live with for time spent online, and knowing that your spouse can access whatever communications you share while playing can go a long way towards reducing the instance of an online affair. Accountability makes a big difference in the marital arena.


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Brian on Avvo, 2014

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