Since my very first foray into the world of voice I have only managed to plug my mic in a handful of times. As I mentioned before, there are reasons why it is not always a possibility for me. But sometimes it is possible, and sometimes it does happen. And when it does, it is good.
I have some friends who despise voice in SL. They're the purists. The ones who were here before voice. The ones that remember when "all this was ASCII fields". They see voice as an abomination of all that SL is and should be.
Then there are others who embrace voice, who see it just as another medium of contact with friends. Something different to text. The same but different. Like Skype but with cartoons.
There are those in SL who voice publicly when shopping together or exploring together or doing the naughty together (ask me about the Italians I heard at the zoo once! - I think they thought I was an exhibit rather than a fellow guest) but I don't think I have any friends who would break the unspoken protocol like that.
Me, I fit into the second category. For the most-part. There are times when voice is appropriate, when it is right and is a good thing. But there are also times, I think, when it isn't right.
Taking the last of those first, I have been unfortunate enough to be in a group gathering once when everyone was on voice except me. I think that is when it is wrong to voice. Voice changes the dynamic of a conversation. It is different to chatting in text. So to have a group of people following one dynamic while someone, or a couple of others, are following another dynamic is never going to work. I've even go so far as to say it can be rude. It is like, if you will forgive me a very extended simile, being deaf and going down the pub with your progressive, fully-hearing mates. Sure you can lip-read and they can sign, but imagine that they choose not to. The conversation is not a level playing-field. It is very exclusive. By the time you have signed your contribution the conversation has leapt ahead and left you behind. Voice should only ever be enjoyed, I think, if everyone is voicing.
My good friend, and patron to my gallery, Chry was the first person to really enlighten me as to how SL changes in voice. She told me, before I ever voiced, that it has a very different feel. And she was right. I was so nervous before I first voiced. Personally, I know that I would never say some of the stuff I type. Not unless I am only with particularly close friends, that is. Somehow the addition of voice tears down that barrier of anonymity that fails to constrain some of us. On voice, we have less freedom to extend beyond our norm. Or maybe that's just me?
But on the flip side, hearing a friend speak you have only ever read before gives you a deeper understanding of them. You gain a whole new insight into their personality. Hearing someone laugh or giggle is so much more intimate than LOL or /me giggles. And one-on-one especially, intimate is good for developing and deepening friendships. Whether you're just kicking back with a friend chatting about nothing or wandering round a new sim checking out the stores and getting the goss on the owners and the relative quality of their merchandise, voice can give you freedom too. It provides the freedom to more easily 'know' your friends. I know there are some people who will baulk at this and rail against my conclusion. But it is true for me. I have good friends that I have only ever read. Would I feel closer to them and know them better if we'd voiced? I have to say yes.
Oh, and just to keep the sulky monster at bay, Princess Ali has a cute voice. There, I said it.