Ever since Facebook renamed itself 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 really interesting and enthusiasts and content creators all over the world seem to be giving their thoughts on its future.
However, the average user doesn’t seem to care at all about the metaverse, and the Meta stock crash isn’t particularly reassuring either. In this article we will see why most people are not interested in this concept.
1. Poor graphics and lack of immersion
Right from the start, Meta made a huge bet: it made promises that were too big to deliver within a reasonable time frame. 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 that the ultimate promise of technology? Being with someone, being able to teleport anywhere and create and experience anything? “.
Given these expectations, it’s no surprise that people reacted negatively when Zuckerberg posted the following image 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 broader scope. It is trying to succeed the internet as we know it and in some cases replace the real world.
The end goal is to let you do almost everything virtually, such as shopping, socializing, working, playing, learning and creating. But in its current state it does none of that.
The amount of human labor and time required to create such a world is unfathomable and certainly not something that can be built in just a few years. Some people even argue that chasing the metaverse is pointless because the technology is ahead of our time.
2. VR headsets are expensive and bulky
The other problem with the metaverse is that it just isn’t accessible to most people yet. 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 to prove a trend change.
The end goal is to reduce the size of the VR headset to a pair of simple glasses, similar to what 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 glasses 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. For 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 proponent, Meta, has a long history filled with countless scandals and has repeatedly failed to protect user privacy times.
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 gadgets can follow the movements of your hands and your body and know your general physique.
This is necessary for your metaverse avatar to look realistic and represent you accurately, but it also means that companies can now harvest incredible amounts of sensitive biometric data. For example, they can spot 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 personal.
Add to that the data they already have about you, such as your age, location, gender, social circles, ethnicity, browsing history, and spending habits, and you’ll 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 general well-being. If successful, the Metaverse will be where most of us end up spending most of our time. And it is psychologically 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?
The metaverse is also bad for your physical health. Instead of looking at a desktop or mobile phone 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 consideration needs to be given to making units more accessible.
5. Increased risk of cyberbullying and harassment
Harassment and cyberbullying are already a huge problem on the Internet, but in the metaverse their effects will be much more severe. Remember, the purpose of the metaverse is to make you feel more present, and while this is great for positive experiences, it has the consequence of making negative experiences more anxiety-inducing.
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 app notifications.
The Metaverse is as dangerous as it is exciting, and people are rightly concerned about its impact on the future of our society. For Gen Z and beyond, the metaverse may 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 sorts of new challenges that our society has never faced before, and what should be alarming is how the companies that support it rarely prioritize people over profit.
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 can turn modern society into a veritable dystopia while you charge a monthly subscription to live there.