Facebook’s virtual world raises eyebrows

Zuckerburg explains rebranding to meta in a youtube video (Photo: Pulled from ideo posted by Meta)

by Jon Donohue, assistant editor

Mark Zuckerburg, CEO and chairman of what was formerly Facebook, announced a new identity for the social media giant, to be known as Meta after Thursday, Oct. 28. According to materials provided by the company as part of the rebrand, Meta’s focus will be a continuation of Facebook’s: “bringing people together,” but now through the usage of virtual reality. Zuckerberg’s excitement about the “metaverse,” a concept that includes blending the virtual and physical worlds, is not necessarily shared by certain Maria Carrillo High School students. 

Meta has begun to advertise what they say is the next evolution of social communication, the metaverse. The metaverse would essentially be the successor to the internet, but there would be lots of collaboration needed for this to really become the case. For instance, there would have to be dramatically increased access to other apps and media platforms, which is somewhat difficult to envision among Meta’s competitors. It raises the question as to whether or not Meta is entirely dependent on collaboration from other platforms. If they don’t have that, then they might be limited in their impact. 

The main idea is that instead of looking at the internet, the user would be inside it. There will be entertainment, gaming, exercise, education, work and commerce. It is basically an attempt to translate the internet into virtual reality with the addition of holograms augmenting reality. Benjamin Choe, MCHS junior, said, “You can obviously connect with more people a lot more quickly, it’s a more immersive experience.”

“I think that the metaverse takes us away from problems in the real world. Giving us anything we want, any way we want it could take us away from real-world issues,” said MCHS junior Noah Vincent. It brings to light the question of whether or not there should be a limit to technological advancement. Vincent added, “This is exactly like Jurassic Park, where people get caught up in the excitement of new technology and don’t consider the consequences, and then learn about it the hard way.” 

There is definitely a lot to be said about the fact that Meta is advertising a virtual world for society to live in, almost as an alternative to the real world. “Do you want to live in Ready Player One?” said Choe. This is a reference to the movie where society escapes into a virtual reality universe, the OASIS.

“Do you want to live in the virtual world or the real world?”

If the metaverse grows in popularity over time, Meta could have a lot of control over our own society, which is particularly concerning for Vincent. “It makes me a little nervous giving [the company formerly called] Facebook so much power over our everyday lifestyle.” Meta is additionally planning on spending $10 billion on virtual reality, a signal many have taken to mean the company is fully committed to bringing the metaverse into existence. 

“[The metaverse] takes away from the genuinity of human interaction. It will impact our relationships in real life, and maybe we won’t ever be as happy with a hologram than someone with emotional feelings,” said Vincent. Functioning in a virtual universe could have the potential to change how we interact with people, since talking online versus face to face have clear differences. 

We will see what the future holds for Meta, but for now, Choe thinks it comes down to a simple question: “Do you want to live in the virtual world or the real world?” 

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