Into the Zuckerverse


Courtesy/Anthony Quintano-Flickr

Mark Zuckerberg announced a rebranding of Facebook in a recent livestream

Jason Burns, Website Coordinator

In a recent livestream, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major rebrand for Facebook, renaming the company Meta. The name change comes during a period of intense public criticism for Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, as the effects of social media on teenagers have come under public scrutiny (again). Facebook’s rebrand into Meta is an attempt to step away from the controversy embroiling the company, but it’s also a sneakily crafted way of advertising a far more malicious form of social media lurking just around the corner. While politicians are jumping on the anti-social media bandwagon, trolling for votes for the midterms, Zuckerberg and others are working to build a far more malicious, invasive, and addictive form of social media.

The idea of a “metaverse” would see a fully virtual world that one could experience through a virtual reality (VR) headset. In August, Facebook unveiled a virtual reality service called “Horizon Workrooms,” where people can gather in VR as if they were meeting in real life. A similar program, VRChat, has operated since 2017 and allows users to chat and play games using a variety of user-created maps and player models (in-game representations of the players). The basis for a metaverse exists already, and VRChat serves as an early example of social media in VR. The technology for a fleshed-out metaverse is not yet available, and could take years to come; however, the wait is no reason to avoid discussing the ramifications such a technology would have on a society already struggling with an addiction to social media. 

A “fleshed-out” metaverse would realistically resemble the OASIS from Ready Player One, where anything you could ever want is accessible if you have the cash. Everything from shopping to working could be accomplished virtually. Of course office jobs are an easy target, but what about jobs in banks, department stores, and schools? Perhaps the most important question is that of socialization. If there were a fully virtual world in which one could do anything, would there still be a reason to hang out in the real world? The addiction to social media is already present in society, so now imagine a platform where, virtually, anything is possible. In a world with limitless opportunity, what reason would people have to sit down and grab a coffee? If photo sharing and arguing with strangers on the internet has already captivated the world, it is scary to think what might happen if a fully intractable virtual universe is created. 

Another concern of the metaverse is the same as social media today, anonymity. There is no requirement on social media sites to tie an account to a real identity. You could choose to live as publicly or privately as you wish, and more often than not, face no serious ramifications for the things you say or do. VRChat succeeds in stripping away part of a person’s anonymity by offering only voice chat, but what does this really amount to? As it stands, a forty-year-old man could have a conversation with a fourteen-year-old girl and say and share whatever he pleases. Sure, people who engage in this sort of behavior are occasionally caught, but it is a rampant problem on social media that would only become worse with the introduction of a metaverse. The internet is already a haven for human depravity, and giving that depravity an even bigger tool to work with can only result in disaster. 

While a fascinating concept, the metaverse should be feared. Mark Zuckerberg and others have knowingly shaped social media to be addictive. This addiction poses massive problems that would only become worse if these addictions could be taken to a virtual world. The effects of social media on people have only just begun to be studied when they should have been a concern from its inception. In the spirit of not making the same mistake twice, the metaverse as it is now, and its theoretical future, should be studied so that the creation of an even bigger monster is avoided.