Theatre and democracy in Second Life
Everyone gets a part
Using an alt unknown to one's friends could possibly invite some mischief, but there are many valid reasons for having one. You might, for example, wish to play across sex once in a while, and you might not want the world to know it. If you were to create a different avatar under your original SL account, the avatar would have the same name, the same friends, and so on. It would not be long before your friends observed you playing an opposite-sex character, and that could turn out embarrassing - for you, and possibly even for them.
Another perfectly good reason for using an alt is simply to enjoy SL without your friends IM'ing you every five minutes. If you are a long-term and well-connected resident, an alt can provide a little holiday from your in-world social life, which can be quite demanding. However pleasant it is to have lots of in-world friends, you still might enjoy quietly knocking about on your own in SL every now and then.
So obviously, there can be many layers of fiction and fantasy behind a person's avatar. Nevertheless, I sense that for a majority of residents, the primary, or default, character tends to remain reasonably reflective of the person playing it in real life.
Who's the boss?
That's why it surprised me when I saw that a significant change to my avatar's appearance could affect the way I play my role. After changing its looks, I noticed that the character's behaviour began to change, and I noticed as well that I started feeling different and thinking differently while online.
This was well illustrated during a disagreement with a friend over a dress. Yes, silly girl stuff, I know, but instructive nonethless, so bear with me. This was a shoulderless party dress with a corset-style top and a poofy, floor-length overskirt. It came in several colours, and my friend urged me to try it in pink. I resisted. My character doesn't wear frilly, pinky, femmy stuff.
Well, I did try it on, and I can't deny that, objectively speaking, it looked fabulous, but I felt that SL Destiny would be uncomfortable in it. I see her as a tough, proud woman who might drop you with a left hand that comes out of nowhere if she didn't care for your attitude, like the Rasta princess of your nightmares.
She's also a Domme with a house of her own - that is, a nice property, but more importantly, a family of submissives to whom she is the Matriarch. There is a logic to this character, to this clan leader and Mistress, and there are certain actions and certain things that would simply be out of context. Like frilly, pinky, femmy clothes, for one example.
Now, SL Destiny 1.0 adored fluffy clothes and strappy shoes, and she would call that pink number "to die for". And if someone told her, "it makes you look incredibly feminine", she would go "oooohhh" and get all squishy inside. But I'm quite certain that SL Destiny 2.0 wouldn't be caught dead in such a costume.