Is the metaverse good or bad news for our mental health? Silicon Valley’s focus on creating an immersive virtual world where our avatars shop, socialize and work has psychologists and other experts considering what effects it will have on our well-being.
Technology companies including Nvidia Corp. , Epic Games Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc., formerly Facebook, are rushing to create their own worlds or the digital bricks needed to enable them. Their visions have yet to take shape, but they could look something like a more sophisticated version of the computer-generated world Second Life, powered by technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and incorporating elements of gaming, remote work and social media. Headset-wearing users could attend concerts, participate in meetings or go on a class trip to Rome, for instance.
Some tech and mental-health experts say that every new technology—from radio to television to videogames—sparked fears that it would untether users from reality, isolate them or make them violent. These concerns were largely unfounded, they say, pointing to research showing that genetics, socioeconomic contexts and other factors influence people’s well-being more. The metaverse, they say, is no different—it is only a matter of time before we seamlessly integrate it into our lives. Others, however, argue that the metaverse is so revolutionary that it will alter the fabric of society, with profound consequences for our mental health.
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