What does the metaverse mean for the Christian communicator?
On Thursday, October 28, Mark Zuckerberg shared with the world the new parent company of Facebook, Meta. He specifically talked about metaverse, a “virtual environment” that will allow us to live our lives virtually. The goal? “The feeling of presence” which Zuckerberg stated is the defining quality of the metaverse,” to feel like you are really “there” with other people.
Essentially, metaverse will be comprised of a variety of interconnected communities where people can learn, meet, work, create, and play. Metaverse will give you the opportunity to connect and engage with people and allow you to live your virtual life just like you live your physical life. Metaverse is an immersive experience. Zuckerberg goes on to say, “In this future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parent’s living room to catch up. This will open up more opportunities no matter where you live. You’ll be able to spend more time on what matters to you, cut downtime in traffic, and reduce your carbon footprint.”
This all sounds amazing, right? I love the idea of being able to be at the office without a commute or attend a concert with a friend. But for me, the concerns at this time tend to outweigh the positives. Let me explain.
We’ve been in a pandemic for almost 2-years. Research is showing that the pandemic has increased anxiety and social anxiety due to social isolation in young people. Additionally, Research has noted, “In the initial lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, people spent more time on their phones, were more sedentary, visited fewer locations, and exhibited increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.” These are just a couple of the many research findings around COVID-19 and the impacts of social isolation.
Here are my questions (and concerns):
- Will metaverse cause people to spend more time being glued to their electronic devices?
- Will metaverse cause people to spend more time living the virtual life rather than the “real, in-person” life?
- Will metaverse give us a false sense of identity?
- Will tech replace face-to-face human relationships?
- Will people get caught up in living in a “fantasy world” instead of the real world?
- Will people know how to “act” and “respond” in the real world?
- Will social anxiety increase?
- Will depression increase?
- Will living the virtual life bring discontentment towards “real” life?
- Will living the virtual life bring about unrealistic expectations in “real” life?
- Will living the virtual life bring about the inability to navigate the challenges and obstacles that come with living in the real world?
- Will living the virtual life make interpersonal skills nonexistent?
If metaverse is the future of the internet, the future of our world, then what does this mean for us as Christian communicators? Here are some thoughts:
- Metaverse can open the door to more ministry opportunities. When social media came about, I specifically remember seeing myself as a “digital missionary.” Here at our fingertips, we now had the opportunity to reach people all over the world with the amazing love, truth, forgiveness, and grace of Jesus Christ. With metaverse, I believe this will continue, with multiple opportunities to impact the lives of people, online. What will online church look like? What will group studies, with people around the world look like?
- Metaverse will require that we set up boundaries. As Christian communicators, we must be diligent in not forsaking meeting up together, in person. As we emerge from our COVID-19 isolation, more and more of us are finding joy in gathering together, in-person, again! We must not allow ourselves to get “lost” in virtual living.
- Metaverse will require that we take the lead. We will need to be proactive in engaging with others in real life. As Christian communicators, we will need to take the lead in reaching out to others and inviting them to coffee, dinner, church, etc., in real life. This will be vitally important.
- Metaverse will require that we are cognizant of others. What happens when we haven’t seen or heard from someone in real life for quite some time? Will we notice? My response? We must. If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19 it’s that social isolation is good for no one. It can lead to anxiety and depression. We must be aware and we must be willing to reach out when needed.
- Metaverse will require that we don’t lose ourselves. We must stay firm in our faith and biblical foundation. We must remember who God says we are. We must not lose sight of our true and real identity. We must remember that challenges and obstacles in life are a part of living this one, beautiful life. We must not lose ourselves to an avatar. We are so much more than just an avatar.
There are still so many unknowns when it comes to the metaverse. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. But even in the unknowns, we must be aware of the technological changes that are happening and how can they both positively and negatively impact us as humans and as Christian communicators.
Very well said, Jennifer. You’ve implied this in your questions, but I’m concerned about what the metaverse will continue to do to our sense of self. I’ve lived the dual life of a digital nomad for a decade and it’s sometimes hard to know who I am in person and who I am digitally. They should be the same person, but we do take on alter egos and the metaverse makes that even more possible for good or evil.
Great start to an important conversation.
Thanks, Phil for your thoughts. Like you, I am concerned about what this will do to our sense of self and identity. We’ve seen the research and how social media has impacted the lives of people, specifically younger people, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If anything, I feel as Christians we have an opportunity to really help lead in conversations around this and help lead by example what it looks like to stay grounded in who we are.