Gone are the days when Facebook was the hot, new social media platform. Away are statuses, updates, poking, writing on friends’ walls. For another article I wrote on being a high schooler in 2021, I once reached out to a 16-year-old girl. I asked for her all social media, including her Facebook. She told me she didn’t have one, that she wasn’t “65 years old.” Instantly, I aged 40 years. Still, in the last decade, Facebook’s users have slowly been overtaken by far-out conspiracy theorists and those above 50.
Completely innocent pictures are breeding grounds for people imploring the readers to #SaveTheChildren. Tom Hanks is Enemy of The State #1. Zuckerberg, already updating Facebook to stay in the race, probably doesn’t want his brainchild falling into the hands of those considered most unsavory. Continuing along these updates, he’s created new plans to reformat Facebook to her former glory. Enter the metaverse.
What is Facebook’s Metaverse?
It’s right out of a dystopian movie. Facebook wants to implement virtual reality and augmented reality marketplace where people can interact with each other from the home using VR headsets. The definitions have been hazy, that high-up at Facebook’s Reality Labs – Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality company – defining it loosely. All in all, it sounds kind of like the 2009 movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis. In the movie, everyone has a virtual version of themselves. Attached to a machine is the real, physical version of themselves (their body). The real form is incapable of the limitlessness of the VR version. Virtual reality, as imagined by Facebook, might offer worlds that we otherwise couldn’t see or experience from home. We might be able to “physically” be with someone without actually being physically present.
“The Metaverse is already here as a collection of digital worlds each with its own physics to determine what’s possible within them. The defining quality of the metaverse will be presence — the feeling of really being there with people — and FRL has been focused on building products that deliver presence across digital spaces for years. Today Portal and Oculus can teleport you into a room with another person, regardless of physical distance, or to new virtual worlds and experiences. But to achieve our full vision of the Metaverse, we also need to build the connective tissue between these spaces — so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next.” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook Reality Labs vice president posted on Facebook.
What Does Metaverse Mean for Social Media?
It seems first and foremost, the world of virtual reality is gaming-focused. The biggest advertisements in Facebook Reality Labs heavily features VR gaming. The ease with which Facebook’s gaming elements will blend with virtual reality is its center focus. It’s undeniable that virtual reality’s biggest SFW market is in gaming. People most pushing VR forward are those in gaming. Facebook plans on involving gaming heavily in its metaverse. So much so, VR/AR could be central to Facebook’s platform. Facebook plans to move from being less of a social media company and more of a metaverse company. So, gaming might very well just become another element of social media like sharing pictures or videos — at least on Facebook.
It might be a bit longer until traditional social media as we know it today and virtual/augmented reality technologies combine. Obviously, the technology is still developing. But, Facebook is already creating VR headsets for home use and AR glasses for people to wear at all times. They have very ambitious goals of combining virtual reality with actual reality to some extent. Facebook believes that virtual reality will become as prevalent as social media. They think it will become commonplace outside of social functions and into corporate and leisure life. AR being commonplace could just mean something along the lines of Google Glass, where you could look somewhere and the glasses either show an augmented reality (think Pokémon Go) or could show information on whatever object you’re looking at.
Facebook’s Metaverse and The Influencer
An AR and VR metaverse might make it easier for users to feel their friends’ presence without being present. With VR social media, people can move around and go on tours with friends without leaving the apartment or home. The way Facebook is describing the physics of its metaverse, people could move and act a way that isn’t possible in reality. People’s online personas might become more physical and less presentational. These visual tools could make it easier to message other people. People can see influencers in the flesh and feel like they’re really with them, rather than just watch them. I could imagine how the world of film and television could easily take advantage of VR. Viewers could soon feel like they’re really in the movie, rather than just watching it.
Influencers might have more range in deciding how they present and how they approach viewers with VR and AR. But, they might need more money to start. Virtual and augmented reality cameras are expensive and the editing software for both are harder to master. For the first while, VR and AR might not translate as smoothly into the world of influencers. VR technology is currently made for ventures most lucrative, like video games. Regardless, influencers of the future (or present, considering the future) might want to consider how they could properly take advantage of a VR/AR metaverse. This could be the future of connecting with others.
How Can Facebook Change The World (a second time)?
Facebook paved the way for social media to be the center stage of our social lives. Facebook offered the public an online foundation we could all easily understand – you have a profile, which is your online personality, and you add pictures and quotes to affirm your online persona. This laid the groundwork for virtually all social medias – all other socials use this blueprint because it’s effective. It’s extremely easy to understand and use. Facebook’s virtual and augmented realities might make massive headway in the world of social media. It’s difficult not to daydream about, a future where you can craft your own Sim-like person who is a representation of you. You can leave your home and travel without actually leaving your room.
Of course, there are terrors that come along with this. Are we losing something by cutting out real, face to face interaction? What will happen to our physical bodies over time? How will this affect our infrastructure? How will it affect our mental health? Facebook isn’t the only company in the virtual/augmented reality rat race, other social medias are developing up-to-par technology that provides people with at-home, in-person connection. Facebook’s Reality Lab could still usher in a new wave of contact where we don’t need to physically contact others to be physically with them. The future world of social media could be virtual.
Featured image by Lucrezia Carnelos of UNSPLASH.COM