For some time now I’ve not only dropped off listening to tech podcasts, mainly Apple focused ones, but I’ve actively avoided them where possible. For some reason, I think mainly because I’ve not got a good audiobook on the go at the moment, I dipped back into a show I’ve enjoyed in the past. The hosts were talking about the whole Metaverse thing and one of the hosts made the following comment about people that may want to interact with people digitally:
The snarky and condescending way this statement was delivered really got my back up, but it also got me thinking a bit more positively about how VR could make a big difference to some groups of people if it did take off to the level Meta teased.
Firstly, not everyone is as blessed as the host of the above mentioned podcast to be a popular, extroverted individual. There are people in this world, these days more than ever, crippled by anxiety, shyness, and general introversion. The extreme image many people have of VR users are people locked in their room all day with a headset on, shunning the world. Well, guess what, not everyone has the luxury of choosing to shun the world. For some, the world has shunned them. For others, their own minds have made them feel shunned, or trapped, whether they physically are or not. For many millions of people out there, VR could, and already can to a certain extent, open their lives to opportunities they can’t currently enjoy and experience. We’ve all heard the laughs and sniggers about watching a concert with people virtually but for so many people, VR may finally give them a chance to experience something many others of us would take for granted. The argument for and against VR and a meta verse is always so black and white, but the world is rarely so easy.
As someone who is socially awkward, though not as extreme as many, I can fully appreciate true social anxiety as a form of mental disability, but there are, of course, many people that are also physically disabled. A VR environment could, potentially offer truly life changing experiences to people that without it couldn’t even dream of taking part in many activities available to VR users today, let alone in the future.
I’m not a fan of Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg by any stretch. That being said, he is clearly a social awkward person so I can completely understand why something like a VR world would be appealing to him. I’m not going to defend him, or the terrible impact his company and it’s drive for profit above any social responsibility has had on the world, but I try to look at positives where I can. Maybe, just maybe, Meta can, however, ignite the start of a social acceptance and adoption of VR, and AR. By making this ides more mainstream, perhaps people can start seeing the nuances of the application of this technology and not only the two extremes of hating it, or only seeing people locking themselves away in their rooms and letting themselves rot away. VR is, and will remain, not for everyone. That doesn’t mean no one could make use of VR to improve and enhance aspects of their lives that the physical world has been unable, or unwilling to address.
I think we, as a society, need to spend a lot less time thinking that if something isn’t directly beneficial for us, that it’s inherently bad or pointless. We should constantly be striving to think ‘how could this benefit others? How could this help others?’ We all like to tell our kids 'you can do anytning you set your mind to', but sadly for many this isn't the case. If there is even a small chance that even one parent can say this to their child and VR, or another technological advancement, can help make it a reality, I think we all owe to them, and ourselves, to at least not dismiss it out of hand.