The metaverse is the next evolution of the internet. The creator of Facebook wants to build an all-encompassing virtual world where you can hang out with your friends, game, shop — maybe move right in and live?
Through the course of the pandemic, the virtual world has grown to assume a more significant part of our lives. When we were forced to stay home, we became more comfortable in our isolation. Mark Zuckerberg wants to capitalize on our isolation by creating a more compelling distraction. It’s more comfortable to sit around in your pajamas, in the comfort of your own home. Your virtual self does not have to bother with healthy foods or an ever-expanding waistline. Your virtual self can be cool. It’s hard to be cool at work with real people.
Now that many people can work from home, they no longer have to worry about maintaining a real-world image. What the real world can see of you is limited to what shows up on the screen or better yet your avatar. Perhaps Zuckerberg will create job opportunities within the virtual world. The more time people can spend there, the more time they can avoid real life, and the richer Zuck becomes.
I’ll admit that I have embraced the solitude of the pandemic. At first, I missed my morning trip to the coffee shop to read the paper and visit friends, but it will be two years this March, and I still have not been back. The pandemic has persisted long enough to bring about real change in our habits.
Zuckerberg wants to capitalize on that change and turn humans further inward. He’d like to see humanity crawl into his metaverse and never wish to crawl back out. He wants to create a world so compelling that real life pales in comparison — that scares me.
From the standpoint of an educator, I see how addictive video games have become. During the pandemic, some kids did absolutely nothing for a year and a half while schools were in lockdown or limited operation. Parents witnessed firsthand how spectacularly virtual instruction failed and how video games took over every moment of their children’s lives.
A vibrant teacher in a classroom is one thing, a teacher propped in front of a single-image screen is quite another. In the commercial video world of television, images change rapidly. Multiple cameras are constantly changing your visual perspective to hold your interest. The single stagnant Zoom image did not cut it — Zoom failed utterly to hold students’ attention. Most students propped up the screen and mentally zoned out. Many did not bother to tune in at all and never ceased playing their favorite video games.
Now comes the metaverse with astounding ever-changing 3D images that will be more captivating and addicting than current video games — as a parent, I’d be very afraid. If a child slips down Zuckerman’s rabbit hole, you might never pull them out. With 2.9 billion active users, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your child is already on Facebook (now Meta) and primed for introduction into the metaverse. All those captive users lined up for the introduction to the brave new world.
Education already has a difficult time competing with the compelling nature of video games. I’m sure all households in America are fighting the battle of how much screen time to allow their children. March Zuckerberg is primed to launch the “crystal meth” version of internet gaming. We have a new addiction heading our way — just so Mr. Zuckergerg can add more money to his fortune. The scary thing is that the current generation of parents might be just as excited as their kids about the coming of the brave new world.