The Metaverse: Future of Communication, or Destroyer of Reality?

Tarun Ramakrishnan

April 1, 2022

In the current world, the technology industry is booming like never before. Several companies are coming out with high-end devices, virtual reality headsets, and advanced AI assistants that can answer almost any question given to them. However, one concept stands out in particular, an online world that blurs the lines between what is real and what isn’t. In this world, more commonly known as the Metaverse, users assume the form of avatars to engage in typical activities such as communicating with friends, investing in stocks and cryptocurrency, playing video games, etc. This article will be covering background information about the Metaverse, three pros, and cons of the Metaverse, as well as certain advantages and limitations of this virtual reality. 

The idea of the metaverse can actually be traced back over 30 years ago to Neal Stephenson’s novel, Snow Crash, a dystopian, cyberpunk novel that suggests the idea of a 3D virtual reality space that can be experienced through VR goggles in a personal terminal. The company that created the Metaverse, Meta (formerly Facebook), emulates this idea by creating Oculus headsets through which the Metaverse can be entered. Now that we know how this “virtual world” can be accessed, what is actually inside of it? In Facebook Connect 2021, Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Meta, revealed the Metaverse. The event presentation displayed a world curated to the user, containing both real-world traits and characteristics that have no counterpart in reality. He also spoke about Meta's mission of empowering people to build community and close the gap between people around the world. If people would like to communicate in the Metaverse,  they can take avatar forms and travel to them within a matter of seconds. These rapid advances in technology bring up the question, what if avatars showed up in other spaces without permission or consent? Luckily, Meta has this covered. Users can choose when they need to move to a private bubble, who they want to block when they want to invite others and other such privacy settings. 

When the concept of the metaverse is properly examined, many cons immediately come to mind. How do you eat, how do you manage nausea and headaches, how do you switch between reality and virtual reality? Despite these cons, there are also many pros of the metaverse, mostly relating to simpler and more futuristic methods of communication. 

There are several advantages to attending meetings in the metaverse, such as being able to take part in work or school meetings. Last year, companies and schools shifted to an online setting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, striking the US by surprise upon spreading from Wuhan, China. Initially, there were many struggles for institutions to use virtual meeting applications in order to meet with students and coworkers. However, people eventually became accustomed to waking up in the morning, taking calls, doing work, and getting ready to do the same the next day. Fast forward to 2022, schools have now transitioned back to an in-person setting, however, companies are still choosing to stay at home due to simplicity, convenience, and easy communication. Despite the continuation of online work, companies will have to return to their office buildings at some point. But this begs the question, is it really necessary to do so? With the metaverse, workers can create virtual avatars similar to themselves and attend meetings with other avatars. This simulates a real conversation, just with avatars instead of people. This way, people can still conduct productive meetings and do their work from the comfort of their own homes. This way, people might never have to return to their office buildings ever again.

Second, the metaverse allows people to experience things that they might not ever have been able to do in the past. For example, if someone wanted to walk through the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, they can do so in a matter of seconds. With a VR headset, their experience would be almost synonymous to a visit to the historical landscape in the real world. People who are handicapped and have disabilities cannot experience things that people without disabilities can. However, that all changes with the Metaverse. 

Finally, the metaverse can provide a new outlook on investments. People might be able to purchase lands on different continents with the help of the Metaverse without even stepping into the city or village. As for stocks and cryptocurrency, you can experience the feeling of buying it in person, similar to how an auction or bidding setting would be. The Metaverse could also revolutionize online shopping, allowing users to step into the Amazon store, browse for and examine the quality of certain products, and purchase them at virtual checkout centers. In all, the Metaverse can make otherwise boring and automated tasks more exciting and real. 

Now that the positive aspects of the metaverse have been covered, let us focus on the negative aspects of this virtual world.First, wearing a virtual headset for long periods of time can cause users to experience severe headaches, cases of dizziness and can also cause pain for the user. Ever since virtual reality was developed, people always worried about short and long term struggles that users might face because of it. Users often lose sense of where they are in a room and might bang their heads against sharp objects, causing them to undergo long term pain in extreme cases. Wearing a headset and having a screen on your eyes for more than 2 hours might also cause eye strain, headaches, and many other serious conditions. 

Second, in all of the examples of pros listed above, businesses and companies might shut down their buildings and real - world facilities if they chose to “convert” to the metaverse. If people chose to travel using the metaverse and travel through a virtual world instead of by conventional vehicles, airports, airlines, and many vehicle facilities might shut down because of these changes, causing many people to lose their jobs which might have been providing them with a stable income and lifestyle. 

In conclusion, the metaverse has its benefits and weaknesses and is giving people a taste of the future. There are many reasons to use the Metaverse as it can help people with everyday tasks, making them more enjoyable and productive. However, if used unsafely, it can cause long - term struggles for people in the forms of sicknesses and injuries.