The “metaverse” is soon to be a major aspect of modern life, just as smart phones and social media are now. While the makers of this virtual reality are hyping its possibilities, some mental health experts are pausing to consider its potential consequences.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan for a “metaverse” — a virtual world set to encompass “gaming, social media, augmented reality and cryptocurrency” are described by the company as “the next evolution of social connection.”
This “evolution” is not only a Facebook project. Other major tech companies, from Microsoft to Apple to Nvidia, are preparing the ground for their own virtual worlds.
Some experts shrug off concerns about the metaverse, claiming factors such as genetics and socioeconomic standing are more significant to a person’s well-being than use of technology. According to these voices, the metaverse will seamlessly integrate into our lives just as the internet and smart devices have.
Other experts, however, believe there will be challenges. They point to studies, such as a peer-reviewed article at Psychology Today, that find that the overuse of technology is linked to mental health issues such as depression, psychoticism, and paranoid ideation.
Spending a lot of time in a digital environment can also result in someone preferring virtual spaces to reality, they say. Ultimately, this can “negatively impact our ability to engage in non-virtual life, whether it’s self-confidence or belonging or social anxiety,” says Rachel Kowert, research director at Take This, a nonprofit focused on mental health in the video gaming community.