Ever since Facebook rebranded to Meta, the tech industry hasn’t shut up about the idea of a metaverse, a sort of digital utopia where you can be and do anything and everything you want. The idea is indeed interesting and enthusiasts and content creators everywhere seem to be giving their two cents about its future.
However, the average user doesn’t seem to care about the metaverse at all, and a crash of Meta stock isn’t very confidence-inspiring either. In this article, let’s discuss why most people don’t care about the concept.
1. Poor Graphics and Lack of Immersion
Right from the get-go, Meta made a huge gamble: it made promises that were too big to fulfill in a reasonable amount of time. When you think of the metaverse, you picture an immersive virtual world that’s completely free from human limitations.
As Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it: “…the dream was to feel present with the people we care about. Isn’t that the ultimate promise of technology? To be together with anyone, to be able to teleport anywhere, and to create and experience anything?”
Given these expectations, it’s not surprising that people reacted negatively when Zuckerberg posted the following photo, showcasing what appears to be early renders of the metaverse.
For context, the average AAA game of limited scope takes about two to five years or more to build. The metaverse has a much, much broader scope. It’s trying to be a successor to the internet as we know it, and in some cases, a replacement for the real world.
The end goal here is to allow you to do almost everything virtually like shopping, socializing, working, gaming, learning, and creating. But in its current state, it doesn’t do any of that well.
The sheer 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 pursuing 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 simply not accessible yet for most people. VR headsets today are too expensive, not fully comfortable, and hard to store and carry.
Of course, the design will inevitably improve over time, but the price can only go down if the technology is adopted by the masses and production increases substantially. And as of right now, there just isn’t a lot of hard data that proves a change in trends.
The end goal here is to reduce the size of VR headsets down to just a pair of eyeglasses, similar to what you might be wearing right now. Doing this would solve many problems; for instance, you can use your glasses as an AR device in the real world, and switch to VR when you want to jump back into the metaverse.
The glasses will also be much lighter and less fatiguing than today’s bulky VR headsets, and storage won’t be a problem either since all you’ll need is a regular eyeglass case. As of right now though, VR headsets are simply not worth the cost for most people.
3. Security and Privacy Concerns
Another reason people avoid the idea of the metaverse is the inevitable risks it will bring concerning security and privacy, especially when its biggest endorser, Meta, has a long history filled with countless scandals and failure to protect user privacy on several occasions.
Also, let’s not forget that for a VR headset to work, it needs to constantly listen to your voice, track your eye movements, and read your facial expressions. Other complimentary gadgets can track your hands and body movements, and know your overall physique.
This is necessary to make your metaverse avatar feel life-like and represent you accurately, but it also means that companies can now harvest unbelievable amounts of sensitive biometric data. For instance, they can spot your behavior patterns and learn what kind of things you react positively or negatively to, and use that data to make targeted ads dangerously more personalized.
Pair that with the data they already have on you such as your age, location, sex, social circles, ethnicity, browsing history, and spending habits, and you can see why the metaverse is scary, especially if Meta becomes a monopoly in the space.
4. Health and Safety Concerns
It’s not just your privacy that’s at risk, it’s also your health, safety, and overall well-being. If it becomes successful, the metaverse will be where most of us end up spending most of our time. And that’s mentally unhealthy for all the same reasons that social media is unhealthy.
Only this time, it’s even worse. The metaverse may be more dangerous than social media because it’s exponentially more stimulating and therefore more addictive. After all, if you can be in an infinitely stimulating environment all the time, why bother with the real world at all?
The metaverse is also bad for your physical health. Instead of looking at a desktop or mobile screen a couple inches away from you, a VR headset is worn on your face, meaning the screen in it is sitting very close to your eyes which can be unhealthy in the long run.
We’re also not sure how VR headsets will accommodate people will visual impairments and disabilities such as photosensitive epilepsy. After all, if the mission is to move everyone to the metaverse, it’s going to require some extra care to make the devices more accessible.
5. Increased Risk of Cyberbullying and Harassment
Harassment and cyberbullying is already a big problem on the internet, but in the metaverse, its effects will be much more severe. Remember, the goal of the metaverse is to make you feel more present, and while that’s great for positive experiences, it comes at the cost of negative experiences feeling more anxiety-inducing too.
Hate speech, sexual harassment, and death threats will feel a lot more traumatizing in the metaverse since you can actually see and hear the person in front of you, as opposed to just receiving texts from them on social media or messaging apps.
The metaverse is just as dangerous as it is exciting, and people are rightfully worried about its effects on the future of our society. For Gen Z and the generations after, the metaverse could be a part of life in the same way that social media is a part of life for millennials.
The only difference is that the metaverse proposes all kinds of new challenges our society has never faced before, and what should be alarming is how the companies endorsing it rarely ever prioritize people over profits.
For now, you have the luxury to avoid the metaverse, but eventually, it’ll be inescapable. At best, it can solve a lot of the problems we face today. But at its worst, it can turn modern society into a true dystopia—all while charging you a monthly subscription to live in it.