The metaverse, and our future, isn’t made for us

The metaverse sounds like a fantasy escape, but we shouldn’t forget our reality

Xavier Cullen, Opinion Editor

Illustration by Xavier Cullen and Connor Lawless

It’s a tale you’ve heard a million times. The climate is changing drastically, people are dying from avoidable diseases and hope for a better tomorrow seems non-existent.

It seems like every day the average person is left to defend themselves from the hands of the rich and powerful. From forest fires to tornadoes, natural disasters have been destroying homes of the poor and vulnerable in record numbers.

One group of people causes these problems with mass industrialization and pollution, while another group of people has to deal with the aftermath, helpless in stopping it. It’s a commonly understood fact, but it feels like not many people want to think about it.

We use things like video games, sports and social media to forget about the issues plaguing our world. Whenever someone tries to remind us of issues and injustices during those times of escape, they are shunned and ostracized. Another escape is emerging, developed by Facebook, now known as Meta.

If you’re one of the lucky few people who missed the several Super Bowl advertisements about the “metaverse,” then the term might seem foreign to you.

In a nutshell, the metaverse looks to use virtual and augmented reality technology to transport anyone into a digital world where you can be anyone and do anything.

The idea is certainly not new, and VR games have been able to connect people in a similar way for years. But what is new about the metaverse is the scope. This isn’t meant to just be some cool VR games or tricks. This is meant to supplant our normal day-to-day lives.

Instead of driving to work, you can sit next to your coworkers from the comfort of your own home with a VR headset strapped to your head. Instead of going to live concerts, you can watch from the virtual stands. Instead of hanging out with friends at a coffee shop, you can chat right next to them despite being hundreds of miles apart.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s sordid history of unethical business practices casts serious doubt on the security of the metaverse. (Photo By Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

The idea seems like something straight from a sci-fi novel. A world away from our own, where the limits of the physical body are now only limited by the mind’s imagination. It feels too good to be true. With Meta running the helm, it is.

Facebook has been deceiving its users for years. In October 2021, a whistleblower released documents showing the company knew that Instagram was negatively impacting the mental health of children. Despite the studies and proof shown to them, Meta executives assured the public everything was fine. They also knew that drug cartels, hate groups and human traffickers pervaded Facebook, yet the company has done nothing.

A name change can’t erase the wrong that Meta has done. If it can’t control social media apps, how can it be trusted with an all-encompassing living experience?

Just like those sci-fi books, this advanced technology sounds great on paper. In reality, it strips us of our personhood. Meta’s vision would push out in-person meetings, face-to-face conversations and true human experiences. Replacing our bodies are corporate-friendly avatars, awkwardly moving around fake rooms.

What happens to the world around us when we become engrossed in a fantasy world? Humanity’s current goals seem to be escaping our current reality, with our lovely planet Earth being cast aside in favor of shiny new gizmos and gadgets.

Billionaires are looking to abandon the ship that they wrecked. Meta is now looking to create a digital getaway because our current world isn’t filled with enough dopamine rushes. Rich people aren’t looking to solve the issues at hand, they’re looking for ways to forget about them entirely.

The future isn’t for us. By the time the first humans reach Mars, it will not be the average Joe standing on the planet’s rocky, red surface. It will be those who have enough money to pay for a one-way ticket off the ticking time bomb that is Earth. When the metaverse reaches Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, the real world and the digital one will become interchangeable, and Meta will have complete control of our lives.

I want to be able to experience the nature around me. I want to live in a world where our planet’s natural beauty still shines every day. I don’t want that to be forgotten.

We shouldn’t let the fate of humanity rest in the hands of a company that has knowingly crippled our mental health and breached our privacy at a historic scale. Giving Meta a monopoly on the future means that we will not be able to control our own destiny.

With the internet seemingly growing in importance each day, maybe a metaverse is inevitable. And so long as we let capitalistic companies control it, they’ll control our lives.