Ever since Facebook was rebranded as Meta, the tech industry has talked about the idea of a metaverse, a kind of digital utopia where you can be and do whatever you want. The idea is indeed an interesting one, and enthusiasts and content creators around the world seem to be giving their thoughts on its future.
However, the average user doesn’t seem to care about the metaverse at all, and the drop in Meta’s stock isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring either. In this article, we will see why most people are not interested in this concept.
1. Poor graphics and lack of immersion
From the start, Meta made a big bet: it made promises that were too big to deliver on in a reasonable timeframe. When we think of the metaverse, we imagine an immersive virtual world, completely free of human boundaries.
As Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “…the dream was to feel present with the people we care about.” Isn’t this the ultimate promise of technology? To be with anyone, to be able to teleport anywhere and create and experience anything? “.
Given these expectations, it’s no wonder people reacted negatively when Zuckerberg posted the photo below, showing what appear to be the first renderings of the metaverse.
For context, the average limited scope AAA game takes about two to five years or more to build. The Metaverse has a much, much wider reach. It tries to succeed on the Internet as we know it, and in some cases replace the real world.
The ultimate goal is to let you do almost everything virtually, like shopping, socializing, working, playing, learning, and creating. But in her current state, she does none of that.
The amount of human labor and time required to create such a world is incomprehensible and certainly not something that can be built in just a few years. Some people even argue that following the metaverse is pointless because the technology is ahead of our time.
2. VR headsets are expensive and bulky
The second problem with the metaverse is that it’s just not yet accessible to most people. Current VR headsets are overpriced, not entirely comfortable, and difficult to store and transport.
Of course, the design will inevitably improve over time, but the price can only come down if the technology is adopted by the masses and production increases dramatically. And so far, there isn’t much hard data proving a change in trend.
The ultimate goal is to reduce the size of VR headsets to a simple pair of glasses, similar to the ones you wear today. This would solve many problems; for example, you can use your glasses as an augmented reality device in the real world and switch to virtual reality when you want to return to the metaverse.
The goggles will also be much lighter and less tiring than today’s bulky VR headsets, and storage won’t be an issue either as you’ll only need a regular goggle case. Right now, VR headsets just aren’t cost-effective for most people.
3. Security and Privacy Issues
Another reason people shy away from the idea of the metaverse is the inevitable security and privacy risks it will bring, especially when its biggest advocate, Meta, has a long history filled with countless scandals and failed to protect user privacy repeatedly.
Let’s also not forget that in order for a VR headset to work, it must constantly listen to your voice, track your eye movements, and read your facial expressions. Other complementary devices can track your hand and body movements and recognize your general physique.
This is necessary for your metaverse avatar to look realistic and accurately represent you, but it also means that companies can now collect incredible amounts of sensitive biometric data. For example, they can discern your behavioral patterns and learn what kinds of things you react positively or negatively to and use that data to make dangerously targeted ads more personalized.
Add to that the data they already have about you, such as your age, location, gender, social circles, ethnicity, browsing history, and consumption habits, and you can see why the metaverse is scary, especially if Meta becomes a monopoly in this space.
4. Health and safety matters
It’s not just your privacy that’s at risk, it’s your health, safety, and overall well-being. If successful, the Metaverse will be where most of us end up spending most of our time. And it’s mentally unhealthy for the same reasons as social media.
Only this time it’s even worse. The metaverse is perhaps more dangerous than social media because it is exponentially more stimulating and therefore more addictive. After all, if you can be in an endlessly stimulating environment all the time, why bother with the real world?
Metaverse is also bad for your physical health. Instead of looking at a desktop or mobile screen inches away from you, a VR headset is worn on your face, meaning the screen inside is very close to your eyes, which can be unhealthy in the long run.
We also don’t know how VR headsets will fit people with visual impairments and disabilities like photosensitive epilepsy. After all, if the mission is to get everyone into the metaverse, extra care will have to be taken to make the devices more accessible.
5. Increased risk of bullying and cyberbullying
Bullying and cyberbullying are already a big problem online, but in the metaverse, their effects will be much more serious. Remember that the purpose of the metaverse is to make you feel more present, and while this is great for positive experiences, it has the effect of making negative experiences more distressing.
Hate speech, sexual harassment, and death threats are much more traumatic in the metaverse because you can see and hear the person in front of you, instead of just receiving messages from them on social media or messaging apps.
The metaverse is as dangerous as it is exciting, and people are rightly concerned about its effects on the future of our society. For Gen Z and beyond, the metaverse can be a part of life in the same way that social media is a part of millennial life.
The only difference is that the metaverse presents all kinds of new challenges that our society has never faced before, and what should be alarming is how the companies that support it rarely put people above profits.
For now, you have the luxury of avoiding the metaverse, but eventually it will be inevitable. At best, it could solve many of the problems we face today. But at worst, it could turn modern society into a veritable dystopia while charging you a monthly subscription to live there.