The future of the Internet is here, and I don’t want it.
Enter, the metaverse.
In case you missed it in the Halloween craziness, less than two weeks ago, Facebook and everyone’s favorite ginger, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that the social media giant was reestablishing itself as…Meta. Which, for my wordsmiths out there, is ancient Greek for “beyond.”
That’s because Zucky is shifting all of their efforts and attention into creating the metaverse…the world beyond the internet.
A digital world where people can socialize, work, play games, teleport, exist through their own personal avatar, have a virtual home, purchase virtual clothing and virtual things like NFTs (one-of-a -kind virtual goods called Non Fungible Tokens), and basically…live, virtually.
And if that sounds like a Black Mirror episode of The Sims come to life, well…you’re absolutely right.
I watched all 1.5 hours of Zuck’s official announcement video — which has been viewed nearly 2 million times — along with numerous other breakdown videos about this grand vision of tomorrow’s virtual future. And I’ve got four words, for ya, Mark: I don’t want it.
Here’s the thing: This immersive digital space with avatars that socialize, where you can buy different avatar skins, and clothes and accessories and whatnot…that’s already here. It’s a thing. That’s what “gaming” has become. And it’s popular. The game, Fortnite is just one example of these virtual worlds, and people have logged over 10.4 million years playing on its platform. Yes, read that again. 10.4 million years worth of time, playing a virtual game.
This is not some science fiction fever dream. It’s happening. Now.
To be honest, listening to Zucky describe this virtual world, where you can have your own virtual dog, and your own custom designed avatar which you use to interact with other people’s avatars, in custom, perfection-pushing virtual places where you can design your own picturesque setting, and soundscape and life…it just made me feel so eerie.
I mean, first of all — yeah, it’s intriguing, I’ll admit. And dang impressive that we’ve advanced technology so much to be able to actually achieve such a thing. But the thing they’re not mentioning, is that, sure, you may be interacting virtually in this space, but what they’re not showing you in this flashy — and awkwardly I’m-trying-really-hard-to-make-this-relatable video, is that the people behind those avatars…their physical bodies are clumsily in a room somewhere with a VR headset on, flailing their arms around, and bumping into things.
And sure, the goal is to make all this available with regular looking glasses, but where will that ultimately lead? If we’re supposed to spend all this time in the metaverse, what’s going to happen to our actual bodies? Is it going to be like the sci-fi movies, where we’re all in oxygen – saturated pods, or sensory depravation chambers, physically existing only to live virtually?
I didn’t like it one bit. Not to mention the very God-like power it gives, not only Zuckerberg, but each and every one of us — creating our own universe, and recreating our bodies as avatars in this alter-existence.
That’s what I kept thinking about during all of this: Where is God? Sure, maybe good can come out of this…like all of our avatars are able to attend church together virtually, or you’re able to have fellowship virtually with people’s avatars from all over the world, but gosh — that just sounds like a dismal way to live, doesn’t it?
And frankly, I feel like it’s taking God, and His incredible gift that is this magnificent earth, for granted.
All the sights and intricacies, and sunsets, and blades of grass with fresh morning dew, and butterflies on flowers, and the warm breeze on a summer afternoon, and a snowflake landing on your nose, and that first warm rain that smells like spring, and majestic snowcapped mountain tops, and warm sand between our toes….all of those things God created out of love for you and me, and we’re just dismissing it, to live in our own creation.
Not to mention our physical bodies! Each one of us is masterpiece — a work of art, handcrafted by the most meticulous Artist. Every pore on our face, the way our eyelashes curl. The twinkle in our eye when we smile, the warmth of a loved one’s touch. The freckle pattern on our nose. The curvature of the small of your back. The way your nose crinkles when you laugh a certain way. Those beautiful, “God-prints” on us simply cannot be recreated digitally. They do not translate. God’s magnificence cannot be captured in megapixels.
It’s like, we’re saying to God…Your creation is not good enough. I can do better.
It just felt really really wrong.
And it raised some serious questions in my mind:
What will the ramifications of the Metaverse be?
What is it going to do to personal relationships? What is socializing going to look like? Because I’ll tell you what: cooking for people is my love language, and if I can only offer a friend “virtual lasagna,” somebody’s gonna hear about it.
But truly. What will become of our interpersonal skills? The bottom line is this: we are social creatures. We were created to love. Social interaction is in our very DNA. That is who we are as a people. And it is really scary to think of a world where virtual interaction will replace our intrinsic need for being together.
Not to mention the joy of being physically together with people? I love hugs! I show affection through touching a friend’s arm, or being an actual physical shoulder to lean on. What fun is a dinner with friends if no one is actually eating or drinking real food, and you’re in a room with a headset on, alone! I want to hear you laugh, smell your cologne, touch your physical hand!
And the other thing…it sounds incredibly expensive. With outfitting your avatar, your virtual home, your virtual real estate with virtual things that all cost money — it’s sounds really expensive. And I’m afraid this is just going to create an even deeper financial division between those who can afford this “privileged secondary existence,” and those who cannot.
What is it going to do to our physical fitness? Our bodily safety? The future of jobs? If everyone is in their headsets, with their head literally in the cloud, somebody is going to have to be here in the real world, making sure it functions – which could create another level of class hierarchy.
What’s it going to do to our kids? Parents are already at their wit’s end trying to limit screen time for their children, now what? I fear the days of playing in the woods, and having a childhood that involves muddy sneakers and grass stained knees is sadly a thing of the past.
And lastly, what impact will the metaverse have on our faith? What’s going to happen when life becomes so artificially curated and perfect, that people either, a) forget about God, or b) believe He’s no longer needed?
If we can control absolutely anything and everything in this “world beyond,” where does God fit in?
That’s the dystopian allure: its intrigue will suck people in, only to become slaves to it.
I have great fear for the Internet’s next chapter.
And sure, maybe twenty years from now, I’ll read this back, and it’ll be like someone saying that the Internet would never catch on, or that an engine car would never replace a horse-drawn carriage, or that electricity must come from the devil.
And that’s fine. If that’s the case, then I’ll eat my humble pie, and tip my hat to Mark – the then-will-be zillionaire – Zuckerberg.
But as it stands now, I don’t want the metaverse. Not in the mainstream. Let’s leave it in the gaming world, where it belongs.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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