The first novel I ever read was about a caveman, and how he lived, hunted and protected his family from saber-tooth tigers and Neanderthals. I was just ten or eleven, and I still vividly remember the experience of reading that book and how it so completely drew me into the story that I would forget that I was reading and felt like I was really living in that paleolithic world. The experience of that story is what got me hooked on reading, and I’ve been an avid reader ever since. It’s also the main reason I eventually started writing fiction, because I wanted to recreate that experience for other people.
Life is much more complicated now, for all of us. We just got through two years of covid-19 and lockdowns. Back in February, as we started to see the end of the pandemic and things seemed like they might be getting back to normal, I was looking forward to the news getting boring again. Trump was gone and the adults were back in charge of America, and the pandemic was coming to an end. We could get back into restaurants to eat-in (one of my favorite pass-times), and it was once again feasible to start travel planning and booking flights abroad.
Then the war started.
I don’t know about you, but there is only so much world news and doom-scrolling I can take. After a stressful day at work, I cannot spend the entire evening reading the news, with it’s warnings of global famine, the possibility of tactical nukes getting used, and the daily outrages committed by the Russian military on the good people of Ukraine. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating that we stick our heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening. I read the news and started supporting charities like the Red Cross that are focused on assisting the people of Ukraine.
But I can’t spend all my free time reading the news. I’m not sure that would be healthy. As I’ve blogged previously, I believe escapist fiction is a legitimate need. We all need to unplug from the daily grind of reality, the news, work, chores, and find a way to unwind and relax. Many people enjoy escapist fiction, and that’s why I write light-hearted sci-fi. Well-written fiction has a way of drawing you in so that you forget that you are reading and feel like you are living in that world. That’s when you know it’s a good book.
Too much of a good things isn’t necessarily better.
Relaxing and unplugging from reality with a good book or movie is one thing. What Mark Zuckerberg is trying to sell us with his Metaverse is something else entirely. Like most forms of mental illness and addictions, it’s a good thing that’s been taken too far.
According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse isn’t just about casual online browsing. He wants us to live there. In a recent podcast, Zuckerberg explained what that the metaverse is really all about: “It’s about a time when basically immersive digital worlds become the primary way that we live our lives.” (emphasis added).
“The primary way we live.” Did you catch that? Are you as disturbed by that as I am?
It reminds me of that cartoon movie that came out a few years ago, Wall-E. I remember very little of that cartoon, but the image of overweight adults in chairs glued to screens has always stuck with me. Remember? People lived on a spaceship, and never had to get out of their chairs. They spent all their time looking at virtual screens floating in front of their faces. Everything they needed was brought to them while they remained seated, completely absorbed in their screens.
They even sat around a pool, not even bothering to get into it, but remained in their chairs watching movies of people playing in the water. Morbidly overweight, they were so absorbed in their virtual reality that they’d even forgotten how to take care of their bodies. So lost in their virtual world, their real world and real bodies no longer mattered to them.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse is a big, horrid step in that direction.
Don’t be a Sucker for Zucker
Of course Zuckerberg and the other rich tech guru’s of the online world want us spending more time in their metaverse, to the point of living there. And of course they will position themselves as the bold visionaries of a bright new future. They’re not stupid. They know how insanely rich they will become if millions of people start actually, “primarily living their lives” there. It’s a great way to completely monetize our lives and make them even richer. Forget about billions of dollars. That’s now looking like chump change for these guys. They’re looking at becoming trillionaires.
I quit Facebook and deleted my account two years ago. I find Facebook, like most social media, a monumental waste of time. However, as silly as Facebook was (or is), Zuckerberg is trying to take us into even greater depths of nonsense. He wants us to quit reality, and join him in his new virtual world. We’ll be able to meet friends, hold business meetings, shop, work, socialize, all within the Metaverse. In other words, do our living there. Just like the people in Wall-E.
Apparently, millions of people spending hours every day on Facebook isn’t enough for Zuckerberg. Or isn’t making him rich enough. He now wants us to spend even more time and living inside his virtual world. What is he going to try selling us next? Automated systems that will bring us snacks without having to get off the couch?
Enjoy escapist fiction, but don’t escape reality
Reading good fiction or relaxing in front of the TV is one thing, and I believe healthy and normal. What Zuckerberg wants us to do isn’t healthy, and we must never let it become ‘normal’. Escaping reality by living in his virtual metaverse for hours on end can’t be good for us. It may be great for Zuckerberg. After all, he’s looking to monetize us – our time, our lives – to an even greater extent by getting us to buy into his version of ‘reality’, so he can add to his already excessive fortune.
Don’t be a sucker for Zucker. Don’t unplug from reality – unplug from Zuckerberg instead. The Metaverse is the product of a sick prepubescent mind that doesn’t want to grow up. Stay away from it and read a good book. Or make popcorn and invite some friends over to watch a movie. Start a new hobby that gets you away from the screen and doing something real with your hands, in the real world. That’s what normal, healthy adults do.
Do yourself a favour, and keep living in the real world. That’s my rant for the day.