Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse the future of the Internet?

Pictured above is Mark Zuckerberg in 2005, just one year after he founded Facebook which is now known as Meta.

Elaine Chan and Priscilla Chan, CC BY 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pictured above is Mark Zuckerberg in 2005, just one year after he founded Facebook which is now known as Meta.

By Jayne Abraham, Pleasant Valley High School - IA

The metaverse is here – and it has been deemed dead upon arrival.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s rebrand to Meta on Oct. 28. After seemingly perpetual controversy regarding user privacy and security on the social media app as well as stunning information revealed by whistleblower Frances Haugen, Zuckerberg hoped a rebrand would allow for the company to break away from being known solely as a social media company. 

Thus, the metaverse was born. But what exactly does that entail?

Co-host of business, technology and politics podcast, “Pivot,” Scott Galloway outlined his perception of the metaverse as well as his skepticism. “The idea is to have a place where you could have relationships, leisure, economies, and maybe even your professional life online, right? There’d be some critical success factors,” Galloway explained. “One, you’d have to have something that was open-source – no company is big enough to create everything you’d want in a metaverse. Two, it’d have to be interoperable – you’d have to be able to take things from one metaverse to another.”

Not only do experts like Galloway believe the success of a vast, interconnected online universe is unlikely and unfeasible, but they see the rebrand as an escape route rather than an innovative shift. “In actuality, Facebook is basically spending $10 billion on a prayer that, in the short run, it might change the conversation,” Galloway continued. “It gives them an opportunity to talk about the metaverse instead of insurrection and teen depression. It gives Mark Zuckerberg a chance to talk about the metaverse instead of saying, ‘Hi, I’m the CEO of Facebook, I’m ruining the world.’ But Facebook’s metaverse won’t work.’’

The idea behind the metaverse – an online realm connecting business, politics, economics, social networking and more – is not a new one, but the reality of it seems almost dystopian. Galloway further explained, “It comes down to this: If we had a metaverse that dictated our relationships, a place where we kept assets and interacted with politics, then whoever controls that metaverse is the closest thing we have to a scientific god.”

And the thought of that “scientific god” being the same robotic, awkward, so-called “toddler CEO” the world has come to know as Mark Zuckerberg is unsettling.

Senior Tarun Vedula offered insight on Zuckerberg and his potential control of what could be the future of the Internet as it is known today. “In all honesty, the idea of an individual as controversial and questionable as Mark Zuckerberg holding that much power concerns me. Currently, the Internet isn’t ‘owned’ by any single entity, which comforts a lot of people. I could definitely see it being a problem,” he said.

On the surface, the idea of the metaverse is revolutionary, but upon deeper analysis, it may not be a positive development for humanity. “The idea of being able to experience what we can only look at now excites me but doesn’t come without any concerns,” Vedula continued. “Specifically, I wonder about the implications of individuals spending concerning amounts of time in something as amazing as the metaverse instead of the real word.”

Echoing early fears regarding the viability of not just Facebook but Zuckerberg as its CEO,  Zuckerberg’s hurried response to the surmounting attacks on his company points to a darker truth. 

Zuckerberg, $69.8 billion net worth and all, chose to subvert the fundamental issues within Facebook that surrounded the company as early as its founding. Deflecting the list of concerns brought forth regarding his company, he is attempting to shift the conversation, hoping to occupy the position of the all-knowing, billionaire networking mogul in his metaverse where, as he put it himself in the concept’s promotional video, the most important experience of all occurs: connecting with people.

“Connecting with people,” of course, consists of exploring virtual experiences with avatar versions of real-life people across the world. The truth is the connections Zuckerberg is attempting to foster among people via the metaverse are not real. 

But all hope is not lost for the Facebook founder. He has been ducking controversy for nearly two decades now, and considering the amount of attention Zuckerberg and the metaverse have garnered, perhaps his deflection has been successful yet again. 

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on November 15, 2021.