I’m old school, but I remember when kids sitting together at a coffee shop engaged in meaningful conversation. With each other, I mean. Not with whomever they happened to be IM’ing.
I couldn’t help noticing a few teenage “friends” huddled around a table one day, heads down in phones, thumbs flying. Occasionally, one girl’s head would bob up and drop right back down when she saw nobody willing to engage. That lasted pretty much the entirety of my coffee visit. So, for her sake when leaving I felt compelled to kindly suggest that they put their devices down and visit together.
If looks could kill …
As I climbed behind the wheel of my Jeep, I saw through the coffee shop window that I’d at least succeeded in uniting them in indignant back and forth about my “Father Knows Best” mansplaining, even if delivered with a smile and the best of intentions.
What that next-gen coffee club and others like them fail to realize is that head-down social behavior demonstrates loudly that the person on the other end of the virtual connection is much more important than the one sitting across from you. And we wonder why young people increasingly struggle with self-image.
It turns out it’s not just online bullying. It’s online everything. And it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
Next we’ll see Mark Zuckerberg’s ridiculous Oculus Rift glasses further isolating kids at coffee shops and in their homes. Why not see the person, or at least a preferred avatar, when conversing or gaming with him or her while ignoring your real friends? That’s the brave new world Meta envisions, but clearly not a better one. It’s filled with social and physiological pitfalls that make today’s look tame.
There will always be one overriding problem with the virtual world: It will never be the real world.
Most everything about it is fake. People are free to be someone they are not, prettied up and “self-identifying” as … well, whatever. I know that sounds like a leftist paradise, but paradise is illusive. Beyond the countless stories of identity theft and sexual abuse in the metaverse already, there are other real-world consequences to immersing an already impersonal culture further into the world of bits and bytes.
One unforeseen consequence is nausea.
A friend told me that at a meeting of media executives he recently attended, participants were handed Meta’s “super-cool” glasses. He said, “Over half the people got dizzy, sick to their stomachs after 2 to 3 minutes.” He went on, “These were tough Aussie media people who had to sit down and unwind from dizziness before walking on, or they would have fallen over.”
Owning a small plane, I’m uncomfortably familiar with the reality of spatial disorientation. It’s why planes carry sick bags. Flying from VFR (Visual Flight Regulations) into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) has disoriented and taken out even some of the most experienced pilots, not just newcomers like JFK Jr. and his unfortunate passengers. Authorities concluded he was in a steep turn and descending rapidly, likely believing he was flying straight and level, to tragic effect.
“I see more falling [with VR] than anything else,” Marientina Gotsis, an associate professor of research at the Interactive Media and Games Division of the University of Southern California, told CNN. “You can trip and hit your head or break a limb and get seriously hurt, so someone needs to watch over you when you are using VR. That’s mandatory – that includes keeping pets, small children and other obstacles like ceiling fans out of the area.”
But how many planning to use Meta Wonder Boy’s VR headsets have that “mandatory” person watching over them and their pets while playing games that are best done standing? (All that endless hooking up or, for that matter, fighting and killing is harder to do seated.)
Perhaps that’s why Meta’s infinity logo looks like an injured number 8 fallen on its side.
Other real-world challenges include serious vision problems. Optometrists warn “wearing VR headsets can cause eye strain, eye fatigue and blurred vision.” So, unless your children plan to orient their vision only to a screen 1.5 inches from their heads from now on, don’t let them wear them for any appreciable period of time.
But as concerned as I am about injuries and visual impairment, I’m more concerned about the long-term psychological effects on young people who are already losing the art of real personal interaction.
No doubt such technology has a place in medicine and industry. But buying these socially isolating headsets for your child because Bobby down the street owns a pair, would be like strapping him in a pilot’s seat and sending him straight into IMC flight conditions, hoping for the best. Maybe worse.
Thankfully, Mr. Zuckerberg’s plans to turn the real world into a bizarre world of isolation and spatial disorientation is “hitting headwinds.” The Wall Street Journal reported “his bid to reinvent Facebook parent Meta hits early snags.”
“Meta is at an inflection point and has big problems to solve,” says one analyst. “Meta, who once seemed untouchable, is showing cracks.” The “cracks” extend deep into its stock price, the WSJ article saying that “Meta stock has retreated 50% this year, erasing $500 billion” in value.
I say, “Excellent!”
It probably didn’t help when our half of the country learned the hard way that free speech in ZuckerWorld only applies to progressives who hate us and are redefining everything. We also learned about what would elicit televised hearings if the shoe were on the other foot, designed to swing the 2020 elections. The New York Post reported, “Zuckerberg spent $419 million trying to infiltrate a private takeover of our elections through ideological non-profits designed to turn out the Dem vote in 2020.”
Parents beware. The “Metaverse” is proving perverse. It’s not safe for your child on any level. Trust it only as far as you can throw progressive Zuckerberg and his nauseating glasses.
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