Editorial: The metaverse is not going to end well


The ISD Editorial Board discusses the impact of Facebook and Microsoft’s attempts to create a new virtual reality platform. 

Editorial Board

Editor’s Note: Editorials are representative of the views of all Editorial Board members. One or two members will compile these views and write an editorial.

Think about your favorite memory, or really any good memory. As you close your eyes, take in the sounds and smells. Hear the voices of the people around you. Listen to the wind or the rustle of footsteps. Visualize everything around you, just as you experienced it the first time: the colors, the sunlight. Where were you? What were you doing?

No two people are going to remember the same event exactly the same way, even if they experienced it together. As individuals, different things are going to stick out to us and engrain themselves in our minds.

Still, the addition of a good friend or family member greatly enhances how we experience the world around us. Most readers won’t be reminiscing about summiting Mt. Everest or rowing across the ocean. While these are amazing, certainly stimulating and incredibly memorable accomplishments, they are often completed solo. Rather, many readers will relive a family holiday or spring break trip with friends.

These are by no means lesser experiences in our lives. The presence of those we care most about can actually elevate these simple events into our favorite memories even if we have climbed the tallest mountains and sailed the deepest seas.

Even the most introverted of people crave human interaction of some kind. We all desire to be known and loved and cared for. 

The pandemic affected that. Closed off from friends and family, many people struggled. Perhaps the best argument against shutdowns was the social isolation that many people were forced into and the impact that it had on both their mental and physical health.

Workplaces adapted, with many companies opting for a virtual environment, which ultimately amounted to video conferencing both for important meetings, but also group lunches and social activities. Shutoff from the world, people desired human interaction in whatever form they could get.

Now, Microsoft and Facebook are trying to build upon this virtual workplace with an entirely virtual reality: the metaverse, as it has been coined. No need to come into the office when your virtual avatar can sit around a virtual desk and converse with other virtual avatars in an entirely digital environment.

This technology has its place and time, but the bottom line is this: the metaverse will suck.

It will be absolutely amazing at first. The realism, user friendliness and effectiveness of the metaverse will cement it into many of our lives, but after the novelty wears off, it will suck.

The metaverse will accurately capture more emotion and subtlety than video conferencing. Non-verbal communication will be communicated through highly detailed avatars that mimic us in a way we couldn’t predict ourselves. It will feel as if you are in an office with your coworkers or a club with your friends or a living room with your family. And it will suck.

Our children, our peers and our parents and grandparents will make use of the metaverse, just as they do their iPhones. No generation will be left out due to some overly complex technology. The plug-and-play nature of virtual reality will enable people of all ages to experience each other in a digital environment. And it will suck.

Despite everything that programmers at Microsoft and Facebook will think of implementing, they will still fail miserably at emulating the human condition. Nothing can replace the experience of another human being. No amount of technology will ever replicate what it is like to be in the presence of a family member, friend, coworker, boss or even complete stranger.

The metaverse will simply be what every other technology has been: a useful tool that finds a way to invade our lives and steal our privacy and our freedom. It will serve a purpose, and it will be very good at it, but it will also push its way into corners of our lives that it doesn’t belong in.

Social media is very good at that. Facebook is very good at that.

The advent of the digital age has made crappy, virtual interactions more accessible than genuine, in-person interactions. It started with quick blurbs about our day and evolved into complex networks and will soon morph into a full blown universe within our current reality.

Rather than put in the time and effort needed to grow relationships, we’ve settled for the instant gratification that the internet provides. We’ve allowed our employers to invade our homes through our cameras and microphones. We’ve intermingled our work and personal lives in ways unseen in the past, and we’ve given away our personal information in droves to people and corporations that we can’t trust and don’t trust.

The metaverse will suck. It’s that simple. Facebook has proven itself to be bad for humanity and has no hope of improving. The metaverse will be a doubling down of all the bad things we’ve come to expect from Facebook, wrapped with a prettier, more technological bow.