by: Colby Harris, Grit.org Staff
The Metaverse. No longer a concept, but a reality that we will all see brought to fruition in the next 50 years. With massive companies like Facebook and Microsoft leading the charge, the integration of the Metaverse in some fashion is now inevitable. Simply put, the metaverse is a virtual reality world where users can interact, game, and experience things as they would in the real world. The idea of the metaverse is to do what the internet did for information and then do it for social interaction. To create the metaverse in it’s full potential, we still need to make extremely advanced technological designs to create this virtual world as cracking the code on creating an augmented reality is very different from virtual reality. After the metaverse concept took the world by storm in late 2021, I thought it would be favorable for everyone for me to inform our following of the upsides and potential downsides that come with such advanced technology. Let me start by saying I don’t advocate or stand against the metaverse, and technically, the metaverse does NOT exist yet. I also believe its utilities are extremely fascinating. After a year where people experienced “extreme depression” due to being stuck at home, it would have been awesome if you could enter a 3D world with friends and family to interact and play games or to enter a conference room with all your colleagues to collaborate in a realistic setting. On the flipside, do I believe that younger generations need another piece of technology to help them escape reality, become mindless, and sit inside? Absolutely not. I think everyone has the dystopian view of the metaverse and that we are going to live through a period of our lives as if we were in a movie- such as “Ready Player One” or even “The Matrix”. With this blog post I want to share some of the ideas around the metaverse and raise awareness of the risk that could potentially come with it.
Let's start with the positive side of the metaverse and why I find it so intriguing. As I mentioned before, after a rocky year in 2020 and even 2021, technology like this would have helped a lot of people get through long periods of isolation. From the videos I have seen of people playing games, interacting with others in chat rooms, and even attending concerts in Virtual Reality, it sure looks like a good time! We have seen social media grow and become the most powerful tool in today's society. But why? Because it creates CONNECTIONS, it creates RELATIONSHIPS, it makes SOCIAL INTERACTION easier than ever. I can post a video, picture, or go live and have it be viewed by anyone in any part of the world. The idea of the metaverse is to take social media, and push it one step further creating a virtual 3D reality where you would not only socialize, network, and play games, but also a place you can work, shop, and put on events. When I said the metaverse aims to do what the internet did for information and do it for social interaction, I mean they want to make an easily accessible social platform that is always open and running. The internet revolutionized the way we gather information by making it so easy to find and always accessible. The metaverse aims to do the same thing by allowing you and anyone across the world to sit down and interact at any given time.
Now let's break into the potential downsides. Coming from a guy who runs a summer sports camp full of kids from Gen Z and Gen Alpha (post 2010), I can tell you now I have never seen a generation more at risk of crazy technology like the metaverse. I personally am part of Gen Z and would be just as 'at risk' as the next generation if I didn't land at Grit.org, but that's another story. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about the metaverse, and he is a lot older than me and even has kids of his own just a few years younger than me. The major negative downside to the metaverse for the next generation is that it creates an alternative reality where you can “be whatever you want to be." Why is that scary? Because we already live in a country where you can do that! It just takes one thing that it won't take in the metaverse: hard work. In the metaverse, if you want 6 pack abs, then make your avatar have a 6 pack... *click click*...done - 6 pack abs. In the real world, if you want to get in better shape physically, then you're going to have to put yourself through a workout everyday, watch your diet, hydrate, and get quality sleep. This won't happen instantaneously or at the click of a button. It takes consistency and hard work. This real life adventure of bettering yourself builds character and teaches life principles, like delayed gratification. So, like The Matrix, if I offer you the red pill (live in the metaverse and immediately get whatever you want), or the blue pill (do the hard work, apply consistent effort, and it just might work out), then nine out of ten people are taking the easy route. That likely holds true at least for the next generation--the people that will ACTUALLY live with the metaverse and experience its full potential. That is my biggest fear with the metaverse. It offers limitless possibilities at the tap of a finger, and it’s impossible for something like that not to become addictive. You can bring your wildest dreams to life in just a few quick steps versus life in the real world where nothing above average comes without some sort of hard work and sacrifice. In a world where kids are already becoming softer and softer by the day, the idea of the metaverse offering a outlet where you can be Superman in VR while being morbidly obese and hardly able to walk in real life is absolutely terrifying.
So all in all, do I think the metaverse is all bad? No, but do I think Mark Zuckerburg knows exactly what he is doing by capitalizing on the tendencies of my generation and the next? Absolutely. Mark Zuckerburg has always been a visionary, but he's also always been a capitalist. The metaverse would become an outlet that would allow people to become complacent with their disappointing reality. The scary power of the metaverse is that they could sell us on any idea or plan, and once we buy in, they still hold the power as to what comes with the technology and the algorithm it follows. As previously mentioned, I do not stand against or advocate for the metaverse. The reality of this blog is to show appreciation for technology and help a few of you understand more about it. I also want everyone to recognize the principles and values that are lost when people can have whatever they want at the click of a button. As a positive member of society, you should never turn your back on a new development or idea in our world. Do your own research, and then draw conclusions. Never forget the internet was once a “fad”, and we all know how that turned out! Pictured below: Camp in the metaverse vs. camp in real life