Mental Health and Virtual Reality – Do they Mix?
The metaverse is a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. People will be able to wear a device or log onto a platform on their computer or television and enter the metaverse. What you will be able to do in VR is endless. Imagine being able to play table tennis, hang out with friends at virtual bars or go hiking on your favorite Appalachian trail. Everything you’ve always wanted to do in real life, you will be able to do so in the metaverse. While it sounds good, you can also imagine all the downsides that VR will bring to society.
So how is the metaverse going to affect mental health? Well for starters, people might become more disconnected in real life. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic not going away, they will be more tempted to stay indoors and hop into their VR niche. It’s going to be much easier to come home from work and put on a headset than make an effort to meet up with friends. People will rely even more on technology to socialize and lose more of those in-person benefits such as touch, physical closeness and empathy.
The Metaverse and Psychological Addiction
Everything you’ve always wanted to do, you will be able to on the metaverse. Ever wondered how heroin feels? You obviously don’t want to try it in real life, but what if the metaverse will offer “heroin bars?” You will be able to consume the drug and feel as intoxicated as in real life! This might lead to higher addiction rates, despite being virtual experiences! Also imagine all the people who are struggling with their love life. What if the metaverse can offer prostitution, perhaps even for free?
Everyone is excited about all the positives of the metaverse, but we cannot ignore the negatives. Look how hooked we are to our iPhones, internet and Netflix. Now imagine taking these experiences and intensifying them by 100x, literally transporting our consciousness into an alternate reality. Your brain is going to release great amounts of the “feel good” neurotransmitter called dopamine. My concern is when you’ll tap out of VR and come back down to reality. What will happen to your dopamine levels? For all the people who complain that “reality sucks,” they will likely be tempted to spend more time virtually. Repeat this process enough times and we can likely see society developing a “virtual reality” addiction.
The Future is Virtual
In conclusion, it’s too early to predict all the positive and negative aspects of the metaverse. I’ve touched upon a few of them above just to get our minds to anticipate what the future might have in store for us. But as with any new technology, there will always be some downfalls that we need to prepare ourselves for. Everyone will be susceptible to different pitfalls and we will have to manage them when the time comes. But if we can at least anticipate them before the metaverse goes mainstream, we can mentally prepare ourselves beforehand so we don’t experience any major surprises.
What are your thoughts on the metaverse? Do you think that society is doomed and this is just another form of control by the elite? Or do you believe that VR will bring more benefits than risks? I’m tempted to believe that it will be an equal mix of positive and negative aspects. I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual reality might make us more distant in person. This will cause us to rely more on technology as a form of communication. I also believe that we are going to become even more disconnected from nature than we already are. Think about it, who wants to go spend time in a forest when you can just hop onto VR and do it from your couch? My main concern is that humanity will consciously transition from reality into VR and experience great difficulty transitioning back.