The following guidelines were created to help members of our teams when they relate to visitors and community members on Epiphany Island. Second Life has its own kind of social etiquette which we tend to pick up over time. Reading the following could help you become familiar with SL norms of behavior even before you create an account.
General Rules of Behavior
EpiphanyIsland has a maturity rating of PG (General). This has been described as prohibiting any behavior you would not feel comfortable performing in front of your grandmother. Basically, it means that offensive language, nudity, violence, or public chat of a sexual nature is not permitted. In addition, visitors may not carry drawn weapons, dress in an overly revealing manner, nor wear items that would be considered offensive. Any instances of harassment of others on the sim will not be tolerated.
All visitors to EpiphanyIsland are expected to conform to the official Second Life Community Standards, which may be viewed here: http://secondlife.com/corporate/cs.php
Real Life (RL) Identity
NEVER pressure anyone to reveal information about any aspects of their “real” lives. Everyone has their own preferences as to whether they wish to reveal information about their other lives, or maintain a strict separation between them, and this must be respected. In general, it is fine to ask general information about someone’s RL location, profession, relationship status, etc. However, if the person you are speaking to does not reply, they are probably sending you a signal that they wish to keep the two separate. If this is the case, let it go. Sometimes you can tell from what a person includes in their profile information how they feel about this. They may include RL information about themselves, or conversely, make a statement that they keep SL and RL separate. Also, it is good to keep in mind that the person behind the avatar may be of a different gender (or more rarely, race) than is represented by their avatar. People who are using an avatar of the opposite gender typically indicate this on their profile, but this is not always the case. Always relate to someone in terms of their avatar representation. If a person uses a female avatar, relate to that person as a female, even if you know that the person behind the avatar is male. Do not make assumptions about someone’s RL identity based on their avatar representation. If you find yourself in a situation with them in which this matters to you, you may ask for this RL information, but remember that people may not always be honest with you about it.
Remember that disclosing any RL information that you learn about someone, without their explicit permission, is a serious violation of the SL Terms of Service, and can lead to loss of your SL account.
Politics, Religion and other Touchy Subjects
Everyone is welcome on Epiphany Island, as long as they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. Visitors may include information in their profile, or by wearing a certain group tag, or may make comments that identify them as having viewpoints that do not agree with your own. You may of course engage in a respectful conversation with them regarding these subjects, if they are open to it, but please do not say or do anything that would make them feel unwelcome on Epiphany Island.
Some people may choose avatar representations that appear strange to you. They may appear in the form of animals, furries (anthropomorphic animals), hybrids (humans with some non-human features, such as a tail and whiskers), tinies (very small avatars, typically in non-human form) or mythological creatures, such as elves and fairies. People assume these (and other) forms for many different reasons, and they often have strong feelings about these representations. Never mock or make fun of someone’s choice of avatar representation, as that may be considered highly offensive.
Some people choose to represent themselves with child avatars. This is usually a case of the person wishing to relive the experience of being a child, and rarely a case of age-play (the use of a child avatar to engage in sexual situations with an adult avatar). Child avatars typically talk and act in a child-like manner. The appropriate response is to relate to them as children. If they engage in disruptive behavior, you should gently reprimand them, as you would any child. If they do not cease the behavior, you should warn them in IM that they have to behave, or risk being ejected (as they are supposedly really old enough to know better!).
You may also observe people in family relationships, and people with prim babies (scripted objects designed to look like babies). Again, you should relate to these avatars in the manner in which they present themselves. You should respond to the babies as babies. Coo at them a bit, ask how old they are, etc. Never treat the baby as an object. People who engage in this sort of role-play may be using it to work through RL issues, and this should be treated with respect.
People come to SL for a variety of reasons. Some treat it more or less as a social networking platform. While they may assume another identity in SL, they interact with others in much the same way they would in RL. Others regard SL as a gaming platform, and confine their activities to Role Playing areas, where they can live their second lives as medieval serfs, space colonists, etc. Still others combine the two activities.
Occasionally, people come to the Cathedral with the idea that it is part of a Role Playing scenario. If you encounter these people, please explain to them that it is in fact a “real” church, and that their behavior is expected to conform to the same norms as a RL church. If they wish to interact with you in their preferred RP mode (speaking in Elizabethan English, for example), it is considered polite to play along to the extent that you are comfortable. A little light role-play is fine, but they must conform to our rules of behavior. Just because someone is playing the part of a pirate, they do not have license to indulge in salty language or behavior. They may engage in light role-play within the Cathedral, but may NOT enact role-playing scenarios of a sacramental nature (such as a wedding) there.
The typical mode of communication within SL is text chat. Voice chat on Epiphany is most typically used during worship services by the service leader. During services, others are requested to turn off any open mics, to prevent disruption caused by feedback although occasionally this requirement is relaxed. You may use voice chat at other times, but please try to do so away from the Cathedral, to help ensure a quiet atmosphere there. Some people may be unable to use voice chat (due to technical limitations, a hearing impairment, or other RL limitations), and others may be uncomfortable doing so. Never try to pressure others into using voice chat.