You’ve heard about metaverses and virtual reality, right? After all, it’s the talk of the town nowadays. This is the ever-growing place for socializing, working, and playing, of course. Sounds like the metaverse is gonna replace and improve everything we used to deal with. And it’s partially true – metaverses multiply all the stuff, even bad ones. Today, we’ll talk about the social part of the metaverse concerns.
The Digital Divide
Some people are rich, and some – are, unfortunately, poor. This older-than-time imbalance will just be exacerbated by rolling out virtual reality. The digital divide is a pesky gap between those with access to the latest tech and those without it. Even if you have some budget VR headset, the juiciest stuff will still be paywalled. Once we adopt VR, its capabilities will expand at a lightning-speed pace like wildfire. If your wallet can’t keep up – you might even miss some job opportunities, let alone entertainment goodies.
How do we bridge the divide and make sure everyone gets a piece of the metaverse pie? The most obvious solution is pushing more and more budget-friendly hardware. With time, the price of ‘base’ models will naturally drop, just like with, let’s say, 4k TVs. In 2015, 4k TV was a luxury, but now – it’s a default option for many. Maybe in 2035, a $100 full-fledged VR headset won’t sound like a fairy tale.
Another area for improvement is an internet connection. Having a cheap VR headset doesn’t make sense if your ping is 100+ ms (so the virtual world around you is a laggy mess). It’s an issue mainly for developing countries. If metaverses are properly adapted for work purposes, transnational corporations will get a better impulse to expand broadband coverage. Naturally, it will also boost all other spheres, like VR education, for developing countries. We assume that the GDP top list will manage it much sooner.
Privacy and Data Security
Well, even now, some VR headsets are relatively affordable. And Internet coverage is not a problem for most countries (Starlink improved the situation big time). So, there should be no worries about metaverses, right? Unfortunately, it’s where the worries start. Privacy and data security will be in danger like never before. Not because metaverses have bad protection and not even because of upcoming quantum computers (which will bury all the modern cybersecurity).
No matter how sophisticated cybersecurity is – hackers don’t stay idle either. The problem is that we will shift more personal data into metaverses, and the risk of being hacked (or simply tracked by corporations) will always exist. What are the consequences? Well, the targeted ads will know you better than your friends. Or your deets will be sold on the dark web. Just imagine some shady characters trying to find you IRL. Yikes!
Is it that hopeless? Not really. Pro hackers won’t mess with some random person unless they’re paid to track you. Just keep up with digital hygiene and don’t use shady software, stick to complex passwords, and don’t share personal info that might be used against you.
Metaverses are a great place to meet new people from around the globe. Still, be cautious about connecting with metaverse strangers. There are always a few bad apples with dubious intentions. So, keep your guard up and trust your instincts.
Cyberbullying and Harassment
If the previous problem seemed like a very rare occasion, this one is not. Many kids may already wish you were dead because they lost to you in some online game. Virtual reality won’t be an exception. Some people feel like they can get away with being jerks because they’re hiding behind a screen or avatar. For some of us, it’s easy to forget there’s a real person on the other side. Such behavior isn’t just annoying – it can mess with your emotions and mental well-being.
So, what to do? Roam metaverses solo? No, you don’t have to. But limiting your circle of meta-friends is definitely something to consider. Of course, we can appeal to treating each other with kindness and respect. But this is not something new, and mental behavior is forged by offline social institutions. So, get over it and try to control your emotions. If you don’t know how – try to force-stop any emotional response to people you don’t like. Thus, your brain will get better control over the situation.
But metaverses have a little advantage over physical meetings – you can mute or block your foe. And after that, don’t forget to report them. Platforms and developers fully realize this problem, so you’ll likely get all the needed features like robust reporting systems, customizable privacy settings, and even AI tools to detect and flag harmful content.
Misinformation and Echo Chambers
Most (or at least some) of us are going to adopt metaverses to make the most of them. As we spend more time in metaverses, it gradually overlaps with our physical reality. So, all the digital stuff will also shape our minds. At least it might have a considerable influence on it.
Misinformation is an old problem. The Internet has taken it a step further, while AI will simply skyrocket this issue. Okay, imagine some guys gossiping about phony stuff they’ve heard, like 5G chips in vaccines or something similar. Now, imagine millions of these guys from all over the world talking about the phony stuff in real-time in a metaverse. That’s like a living, breathing, infinite echo chamber.
We can create dozens of fact-checkers with impeccable evidence. But what’s the point if people’s critical thinking slowly degrades and is replaced with herd instinct? The solution is all the same – offline educational institutions have to take an even greater role to prevent our society from turning into the “Idiocracy” movie.
All of the metaverse concerns are directly related to our human nature. And that proves this simple statement – metaverses are just a tool. In our power to make it good or make it bad.