There is a lot of hype about younger generations being amped up about the metaverse. That’s simply not the case, writes high school student and The Drum’s gen Z correspondent Sofia Baracskai.
It is difficult to understand what web3 is or how it works. And the metaverse itself does not seem to be explicitly clear in what it will be either. What is it really? It is basically an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience digitally connected to people’s real lives, allowing users to create digital characters that ‘live’ in this digital world.
Despite the metaverse relying heavily on gen Z’s support to propel the market forward, we have news. We’re not all that interested.
Clearly, the metaverse seems impressive. Current ads show its intention to help heart surgeons practice operations virtually, as well as connect a cycling team across Africa. If they intend on doing such substantial work, then connecting our generation for entertainment value shouldn’t be a consideration.
From talking to my friends and other gen Zers, I discovered that many of them were unsure of what the metaverse even was. One friend even asked, “What is that?”
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Others shared that they needed to do more research, since they didn’t fully understand what it is or how it works just yet. For those who did know what it was, though, almost all of them agreed they would choose not to be a part of the metaverse. They weren’t interested in Zuckerberg’s new take on VR. They said they would be unwilling to spend money on a world other than our current reality, especially on something they would rarely use. Those who said they would join the metaverse, though, revealed that they would not use it very often. Despite investors boasting how excited gen Z is for the metaverse, real-life gen Z opinions differ quite heavily.
The truth is, although interactions online can still be important, connecting with people in person will always trump talking to people on social media or video games. There is a certain special something in getting to meet with people face to face and enjoy each other’s presence. In real life interaction is much more valuable to gen Z and our society as a whole, especially following the pandemic. It’s ironic that while we had previously all been craving human interaction during lockdown, many companies are hoping to replace such experiences with a false reality.
Instead, we should value in-person exchanges now more than ever. The experiences of laughing with friends during lunch and whispering in class are the moments that make life so valuable – not doing school from home or hosting prom over Zoom. The metaverse could never duplicate these shared human experiences, no matter how similar they attempt to make it to real life. The metaverse disconnects people from the physical world, as it takes away what matters most to gen Z – experiences. Our real lives are much more important than this fake online world, which our generation recognizes. When we are spending our time digitally, though, we’re looking for a more personalized approach to the way we connect with others.
A prime example is our generation’s current obsession with the app BeReal. The platform encourages users to take and share an unedited snapshot of themselves and what they’re doing at a particular point in a day through the app. BeReal designates the time its users are called to take the picture and changes it each day. Instead of having thousands of followers like on TikTok or Instagram, BeReal is limited exclusively to your friends in real life, without outside access from influencers or unwanted followers. The goal is less, rather than more.
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Does the metaverse actually know its audience? Despite the metaverse being marketed as the next big thing for gen Z, we’re not all on board. If not for gen Z, then who? Maybe it’s up to the next digital generation to decide what the future will look like and whether the metaverse will be part of it.
Sofia Baracskai is a senior at Notre Dame School in Manhattan. She aspires to graduate from college with a degree in marketing.