Through the Virtual Aether was a live-guided exploration, discussion, and immersive audio experience through Habbo, a pixel art based virtual world. Habbo’s user activity has tripled since the pandemic, most being former users now in their 20s revisiting the platform for nostalgia.
The event aimed to consider how social media platforms induce feelings of isolation and loneliness in their users by design. We'll explore this by analyzing the mechanics of intimacy and play in MMO virtual worlds contrasted with the inherent isolation built into broadcast-based social media platforms. As we journey through 10 colourfully user-made themed rooms, our conversation will delve into topics regarding digital wellness, social capital, virtual identity, and online disinhibition. More than just a tour, this program intends to be a space for candid reflections on what makes us feel safe and meaningfully connected with others on the internet. How can social media make us feel insecure and isolated? How can we think critically about our daily online experiences?
This project was part of the 2020 Themed Commission Residency, “Remote Realities”, presented by Trinity Square Video & Dames Making Games. The full exhibition can be seen at
Here is a collection of 100+ screencaptures showcasing my time on Habbo from August - September 2020. Moments of longing, loneliness, lulz, escapism, roleplay, bumping into a pal from high school, a Black Lives Matter protest, abandoned house exploring, and more.
I don’t remember who exactly I was talking about here but clearly I’m ruminating about heartbreak (during a game of truth or dare). This is my barren room when I first restarted playing Habbo, I had a lil party where I invited Habbos to play truth or dare. My room is called ‘kiss pad.’

A Tokyo inspired room I designed! Me n this gal had a fun lil RP.
This was from my very first day back on the platform in at least 5 years. So, just this April. This is what I wrote on my blog that day: 
i just met a cool group of pals at a nightclub, then we dipped and had an after party at one of their houses. it was in a rly sick room full of neon lights and a personal bar. i thought, ‘this girl must be filthy rich.’ then me n this one guy started vibing and he invited me to this weird tricky maze. he was super nice, helping me pass through it. also this all happened on habbo hotel.”

The habbo I vibed with has not logged back in for 5 months :/ an all too familiar MMO tragedy.

A room from 2006. Combing through decade old Habbo rooms is pretty much virtual urban exploration.

Tales of sex education in the south...yikes!
For some reason, spa roleplay (like when they describe painting your nails) gives me ASMR. One time, a spa worker actually led me through a guided meditation!

A fun thing about roleplaying for me is I can sometimes tell the truth or I can make something up for fun, and nobody will know the difference. In real life I do struggle with back pain and have trouble with cooking or dish washing.
Standing at an altar with the creator of “Liberation Church: A place for inclusion and discussion! Liberation, LGBT+, post-colonial and feminist theologies abound!”

This was a dating show (boys pitching themselves to a group of girls who would turn their light on if they were interested).

Everyone moving their avatars into the right positions to take a screenie hehe

Some folks wanted to see my green hair IRL so I let them see my instagram (I do this verrrrrry rarely).
Me and this girl I just met had a massive concert. We had a jam session in my cozy room first, and then we moved to my business suite for the actual concert. At the time of writing this, I actually bumped into her yesterday, and we reminisced about our glory days as a one hit wonder band (which was all the way in June!). She’s really fun to casually roleplay with.

This looks like a 'real' OOC conversation but in fact we were ruminating about the delusions of fame, excess, and power which led to the scandals and downfall of our one-hit-wonder band.

I was really shocked that Habbo has a reference to "Pool’s Closed" in their official hallway...

This girl at Club NX had her Instagram in her habbo motto (status). I realized she was a friend from high school!! We freaked out ofc.

A Habbo shares his personal experiences with abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy at a Habbo hospital.

One of my favourite rooms by Oivind, phenomenal builder. Zoom in for all the little details.

“I don’t wanna be a human, I just wanna be a habbo.” Was thinking about that a lot this summer. Sometimes I want to disappear from existing in a body, from health issues and feeling miserable. Sometimes I just wanna be an avatar, exist on a different plane in a different universe. Live a simple, digital life.
Is an avatar something you hide behind with a persona?
Or does it give you the agency to be your authentic self without fear of judgement?
Is your Instagram profile an avatar of yourself?
What are the limitations of authenticity on broadcast based social media?
How can we create space for meaningful connection online?
Do you have in-depth conversations with the people you virtually interact with?
Why scroll for hours when you’re depressed?
Has your phone become a digital pacifier?
Do your methods of escapism numb you?
Are you loved or are you consumed?