Will the 'Metaverse' be good for humanity?
- Investopedia defines metaverse as “a digital reality that combines aspects of social media, online gaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and cryptocurrencies to allow users to interact virtually.”
- TD.org claims, “the term metaverse can be traced back to Neal Stephenson and his dystopian cyberpunk novel Snow Crash. The novel was released in 1992, and it’s considered a canon of the genre.”
- As of January 2022, 33% of U.S. adults report feeling curious about the metaverse, but 27% feel uninterested. Statista writes, “overall, almost a quarter of those asked reported feeling suspicious about the metaverse.”
- Facebook began trading as Meta Platforms as of December 1st, 2021, and “has said it wants to be seen as a metaverse company rather than a social media one. The tech giant, which has about 3 billion users, has been investing heavily in augmented and virtual reality and has been building out its VR environment Horizon, accessed through its Quest headsets,” according to Reuters.
The Metaverse will inevitably improve society more than it harms it as it opens up new ways to communicate and interact with one another. This offshoot platform of the successful and revolutionary Facebook will allow people from all over the world to connect more similarly to 'real' human interaction than today's social media, chat rooms, and email.
The forms of electronic communication we have today have improved productivity and broken spatial barriers. Still, it has often been cumbersome and impersonal. We rarely make a lasting personal connection with someone through an email or tweet. The Metaverse will allow personalized and intimate communication from afar, hopefully reducing the current level of social media rage.
If the Metaverse is appropriately done and not entirely controlled by corporations and marketing people, then it can perhaps democratize how people build the world around them, even if it's only a virtual or a temporary escape. It opens up an entirely new economic market for our country, as currently, we no longer produce much of anything here and need to find ways to provide jobs in the future.
But its most significant benefit may be environmental. The Metaverse will cut down on travel costs and the carbon footprint they create. It will allow more people to work from home or provide a constant entertainment source and simulated human interactions without anyone having to leave their homes. With so many people at home, the congestion in our cities and roads will be alleviated. There will be less demand for public services and for large infrastructure. Those not trapped in its web will have a much higher standard of living than today.
Social media undeniably has had many negative impacts on society; the Metaverse will only make these issues worse. This holds true especially for adolescents and teens, with many experts concerned about its potential effects on kids' mental health.
In fact, the Metaverse is already causing problems in its early stages; one user claimed she was 'virtually raped' on the platform. There are even more unforeseen problems, including the application of real-world laws into a virtual world. Plus, there are potential disadvantages to using the Metaverse, including privacy issues, virtual hangovers, desensitization, and identity hacking.
It is clear that social media use is tied directly to poor physical health, and an even more digitized world could lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. If anything, people need a break from the internet, specifically social media. The Metaverse will only increase the anti-social, screen-dependent behavior in people that keep them avoiding real world experiences and interactions. Experts have been highlighting the benefits of “screen breaks” and the importance of people limiting their screen time overall.
Ultimately, progress for the sake of progress is not benefiting society, and digitizing everything inhibits general learning and growth. Unfortunately, the 'digital world cannot replace real-life,' especially when it comes to goods and services. The Metaverse could negatively affect the world's economy, and there are many dangers to a fully digitized economy.
Excerpts agree that virtual reality cannot match the real world, which leads to one final point. People should be more concerned spending their time in the real world improving real issues in society and less time glued to social media and impersonal screens. Besides, many experts believe the Metaverse 'will definitely fail' anyway, and all of the hype surrounding it is just that—hype.