Enter the Metaverse

Facebook loading screen on a phone with the Meta logo at the bottom

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY MOLLY SIMPSON / SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY

When the pandemic hit, everything changed. It wasn’t just the victims of the virus, the surging of hospitals and the closing of countless businesses. 

People’s lives were changed, and the world was truly never the same; we found ourselves completely disconnected from one another as the lockdowns and curfews kept us indoors, world governments desperately trying to rein control of the situation. 

The real world was shut down, and in its absence, we found refuge in the digital realm. From binging shows on the countless streaming sites that made their debut in midst of history in the making, to virtual worlds of swords, dragons and magic, tyrannical kings that we usurped with our controllers. Our screens and consoles entertained us as the fleeting bliss distracted us from a world in crisis. When we had to work and learn, virtual classrooms and boardrooms were booted up, our consumerist desires were met as a single tap on the phone would deliver our food and goods. 

All these interactions were incited in the digital realm, greatly affecting our lives in the real world. We had entered the metaverse.

The origins of the word metaverse can be found in dystopian fiction that warns of a world where people are held in a digital prison forced to submit to the will of evil corporations. It’s quite ironic then that Facebook has become the pioneer of this new frontier, completely embracing this future as they have rebranded themselves as “Meta”. Of course in truth, Facebook’s intentions are more motivated by their desire to distance themselves from, themselves. 

After countless scandals of misinformation, political interference, and a myriad of other hiccups, the corporation needed to reinvent themselves – they needed to recapture that same zeal and awe that forged their identity in the early days as they pioneered a realm we’ve become all too familiar with: social media. Now, they hope for lightning to strike twice appealing to Gen Z, a generation born and raised in the digital age. 

The metaverse is nothing new, it’s been with us since the very founding of the internet, but Meta hopes to excite the imagination as tools like virtual and augmented reality give us promises of entering an entirely digital world that we can fully interact with, completely immersing ourselves in a realm as real as our own, the only difference is this time, we are guided not by the laws of nature, but by the laws of imagination. 

Infinite worlds can be rendered as whatever we wish can become real. We haven’t reached that zenith yet, but that promise is enough to excite us, and with cryptocurrencies and NFTs this metaverse promises to be the new gold rush of our time. 

However, is this a good thing? Are we not already feeling the bite of technology, the very things that tainted Facebook that can only grow stronger in this new landscape? 

There are so many threats that lurk within the cyber world. Digital threats can attack children and youth from bullying to online predators, they affect adults with scams and catfishes – even governments and big enterprises are preyed on by hackers as information, and misinformation is another beast of its own capable of striking ancient institutions like democracy itself as digital mania is stirred with fake news and radicalizations. 

These woes are affecting us right now as we struggle to control the COVID-19 virus, but vaccine scares lunge into the way. Politics, economy and society are held at gunpoint with these digital threats, do we really want to add more ammunition? 

Our age seems to be one riddled with oblivion. The world looks to be in disarray and confusion is everywhere, the future can be scary to imagine. So, what do we do – do we just shut everything down and cower behind locked doors? Do we stop progressing as we leash innovation and invention, deciding that we’ve grown enough?

 The human spirit is one of constant evolution; we continue marching forward regardless of the risks. Not so long ago, we faced a black frontier, space was the ultimate unknown, we knew not what awaited us in those fields of nothingness, the sum of all our fears could as well have waited, but we charged forward, rocketing into that howling infinite. 

Humans never stop moving forward, the metaverse, it’s just another frontier.

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