To do is to be -- Camus
To be is to do -- Sartre
Do-be-do-be-do -- Sinatra
There seems to be a fundamental philosophical divide in Second Life. For some, this might be expressed as a desire to do things they can't or won't ordinarily do, such as fly (unaided), shoot powerful weapons, or turn tricks for a living. For others, it might be expressed as a desire to be someone they cannot or will not be in First Life—an animal, a faerie, a ninja; a dom(me), a sub, a master/mistress, a slave; gay (if you're straight), straight (if you're gay), bi (if you're not); sexier, more beautiful, more buff; or a different gender entirely (not as simple, in FL or SL, as "female" vs. "male").
One thing that those in the former group tend to do is to create an avatar that looks very much like themselves, perhaps somewhat enhanced (the "doers" are not immune to the lure of beauty and sexiness). I've seen some FL vs. SL photos, and the ability some people have to duplicate their FL appearance in SL is remarkable. I'm not even sure how they do it! This is sometimes taken even to the point of things such as continuing to wear glasses, or having small breasts, or looking their real age or weight. They can make themselves look any way they want to look, and they choose fundamentally to duplicate their First Life look.
In the other group, you have a range from total fantasy to realistic but different. As far as I know, no human being is actually a wolf or a cat or a rabbit or a spider in First Life, nor a faerie or an elf or a vampire (well, maybe). Or Elvis, except for the late King himself. But in Second Life, why not? And for human forms, why should not a slight, nerdy guy make his avatar a handsome hunk or a strapping warrior if he choses? Why should not a plain, overweight woman make her avatar a Playboy bunny or a powerful dominatrix if she choses? Or indeed, as has been documented, a red-haired gay male into a powerful dominatrix?
Chacun a son goût. There is no right or wrong way to deal with SL, although differences in approach can lead to misunderstandings (maybe more on that another time).
There aren't many limits on what you can do in SL. Nor are there many limits on who you can be. And of course the doers are also, to a greater or lesser extent, fantasy characters, while the be-ers usually also want to do fantastic things. There is no simple divide, just general tendencies.
I love to do fantastic things. I am not qualified to fly an airplane in FL, but I can fly one (well, almost) in SL, and I love it. I love going up in Patrice's helicopter. I love skydiving from the Church of Elvis, trying for a pinpoint landing outside the Velvet. I love doing a triple flip dive that looks like a perfect 10.0. I love being able to construct things with what is basically a magic wand and a bit of arithmetic. And I love it when Patrice and I look as graceful and elegant as Fred and Ginger (or Ginger and Fred—we take turns leading) while dancing at our favourite jazz club.
However, although Albert and Ol' Blue Eyes might have words (or syllables) of wisdom, personally I'm with Jean-Paul on this one. The most important thing for my FL self is that I, Véronique, exist, that my FL self can spend a certain amount of time being me, living this second life as me, whatever I happen to be doing. Perhaps that's why there is a fair amount invested in me, both in terms of time and money (I'm not that expensive, but I do like nice clothes... and shoes... and hair...). Perhaps that's why I spend so much online time doing fairly ordinary things. It's not a big, exciting Second Life, but it's good to have it at all.