The Psychology of the Metaverse in Our Universe, by Dalia Abi Mosleh – Campaign Middle East
If you were to name some of the buzzwords in 2021, mainly Q4 of this year, they would be Metaverse, Crypto, NFT, Web 3.0 etc. Even though there has been a massive drop in search interest in these terms and it bottomed out in March 2022, according to Google Trends stay in this new/futuristic reality – at least for now. In December 2021, Meta launched a social virtual reality platform called Horizon Worlds. Previously, Microsoft launched Mesh, a cloud communication service for 3D business meetings with mixed reality applications.
First things first, let’s briefly explain what the Metaverse is. Simply put, the Metaverse is a virtual 3D online empire. It’s a fusion of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – think personalized avatars controlled by users in harmonized virtual environments where everyone can be present. They can own land, buy art, play games, and attend digital conferences and concerts with augmented reality glasses. And while all of this sounds outlandish and unrealistically futuristic, the ambiguity of the metaverse has increased skepticism and criticism.
Proponents of the metaverse are optimistic that it will become the new reality in the future, while opponents claim it is a fragmented and dystopian concept – a hype that will eventually die. Now I’m not here to pick sides and bolster my argument, but to look at it from a different angle and discuss the psychological controversy surrounding the metaverse. While the race to monetize this area gets most of the attention, a rise in potential psychological concerns that didn’t exist before is neglected.
Have you ever wondered if your social media circles look and behave the same in real life as they do online? Now imagine having the ability to create your own avatar, a virtual persona designed and fully controlled by YOU. how would you build it Would it be a recreation of what you are like in real life? Or would it be an “enhanced” version of yourself, or maybe a completely different one?
Welcome to the Metaverse: an alternate world where you can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone – tall, skinny, male, female – and potentially marry and have superpowers in the future. Research has shown that within the complexities that make up the metaverse, users create virtual personas that are flawless, smooth out their insecurities, or feed their egos. They seem to hide behind their avatars and create lives close to perfection, in many cases feeling accepted. While this goes against the ideology of self-acceptance and love — and creates self-esteem issues — it also begs the question, is reality bad enough to make you want to escape?
Think of the Ready Player One movie. It paints a picture of what a virtual world might look like in the future. It also looks at how virtual reality can affect mental health and trigger addiction, anxiety and depression. The sedentary lifestyle also has a great impact on physical health as it impedes blood circulation due to lack of exercise and causes obesity and heart problems.
If you’ve also watched the Black Mirror episode “Striking Vipers,” which reveals the struggles between reality and fantasy and desire and responsibility, you would understand the longing the characters had to dive into the game with their full skins of sensation. If they explore these emotions virtually, would you consider their gaming experience cheating? The increase in dopamine levels in the brain is related to how immersive the experience becomes. You, the user, could become obsessed and eventually get stuck in the metaverse, in your imagination, where your sensory experiences are amplified. Would you ever want to leave and where do you draw the line? This also results in the concern about the distortion of one’s own reality, in which some could not distinguish between these two worlds. Escapism and building social experiments of this kind have become major controversial issues. These are some of the pitfalls that could be rampant if not addressed early.
Technology has massively improved our lives in a number of ways and I’m excited to see what the future holds. As a marketer, I am also excited about the endless brand experiences and opportunities yet to be unlocked. And while the metaverse is still in its pre-phase, is there a way to control/manage it before it spirals out of control?
What are your thoughts on these psychological challenges and what other controversial issues do you foresee?
Finally, which “verse” would you want to live in? And how do you envision life beyond the Metaverse?