If you were to mention some of the buzzwords in 2021, mainly the 4th quarter of that year, it would be Metaverse, Crypto, NFT, Web 3.0, etc. Although the search interest for these terms has dropped massively and reached their lowest point in March 2022 according to Google Trends is this new / futuristic reality is here to stay – at least for now. In December 2021, Meta introduced a social virtual reality platform called Horizon Worlds. Prior to that, Microsoft launched Mesh, a cloud communications service for 3D business meetings using mixed reality applications.
First of all, let’s briefly explain what the metaverse is. Simply put, the meta-verse is an online 3D virtual world. It’s a fusion of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – think of personal avatars controlled by users in harmonized virtual environments where everyone can be present. You can own land, buy art, play games and attend digital conferences and concerts using augmented reality glasses. And while all of this sounds fancy and unrealistically futuristic, the ambiguity of the metaverse has increased skepticism and criticism.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Now, I’m not here to pick a page and support my argument, but rather to look at it from a different angle and discuss the psychological controversy that includes the metaverse. While the race to make money in this space gets most of the attention, an increase in potential psychological worries that did not exist before are neglected.
Have you ever wondered if your social media looks and behaves the same way in real life as they do online? Now imagine that you have a chance to create your own avatar, a virtual persona designed and fully controlled by YOU. How would you build it? Would that be a copy of how you are in real life? Or would it be an “upgraded” version of yourself, or maybe a completely different one?
Welcome to Metaverset: an alternative world where you can do anything, go anywhere and be anyone – tall, thin, male, female – and possibly get married and have superpowers in the future. Research has shown that within the complexity of the metaverse, users create virtual personas that are flawless, compensate for their insecurity, or nurture their ego. It seems as if they are hiding behind their avatars and designing a life close to perfection to feel accepted in many cases. While this goes against the ideology of accepting and loving oneself – and creates problems with self-esteem – it also raises the question, is reality so bad that it makes you want to escape it?
Think of the movie Ready Player One. It paints a picture of what a virtual world might look like in the future. It also addresses the question of how virtual reality can affect one’s mental health and provoke addiction, anxiety and depression. The sedentary lifestyle also has a huge impact on the physical health that prevents proper blood circulation due to lack of movement and causes overweight and heart problems.
If you also watched the Black Mirrors Striking Vipers episode, which reveals the real struggles of fantasy and lust versus responsibility, you would understand the longing the characters had to immerse themselves in the game with their full sensational skins. Will you consider their gaming experience as cheating when exploring these emotions virtually? The increase in dopamine levels in the brain is associated with how immersive the experience becomes. As a user, you can become obsessed and eventually get stuck in the metaverse, in your imagination, where your sensory experiences are enhanced. Would you ever want to leave and where do you draw the line? This also gives rise to the concern of distortion of one’s own reality, where some would not be able to distinguish between these two worlds. Escapism and the construction of social experiments of this kind have become major controversial topics. These are some of the pitfalls that can be prevalent if they are not resolved early.
Technology has vastly improved our lives in various ways and I am curious about what the future brings. As a marketer, I am also excited to see the endless brand experiences and opportunities that are not yet unlocked. And while the meta-verse is still in its initial stages, is there a way to control it before it gets out of control?
What are your thoughts on these psychological challenges, and what other controversial issues do you anticipate?
Finally, in which ‘verse’ would you like to live? And how do you imagine life beyond Metaverset?