The metaverse and your mental health
The Future. At this point, the metaverse seems all but inevitable. Now, psychologists, professors, and tech ethicists are considering all the ways that a purely virtual world can rewire our brains. Pros and cons abound, but what may truly matter most is that we grapple with those questions today, as opposed to when social media snuck up on society over a decade ago.
Vitamin or villain?
WSJ spoke with five tech-and-mental-health experts on the effects of the coming metaverse.
- Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, says that the metaverse may create a disconnect between imperfect reality and the perfect, idealized world of virtual worlds.
- Peter Etchells, professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, says that the metaverse could be beneficial in growing interpersonal connections — as long as the tech is developed with those concerns in mind.
- Nick Allen, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oregon, says that the metaverse won’t change people’s habits… if someone is using tech to further distance themselves from healthy real-world habits, things will only get worse.
- Candice Odgers, professor of psychological science at UC Irvine, says that, since young people will be first adopters of the metaverse, it needs to be designed with their development in mind (unlike so many other tech innovations).
- Rachel Kowert, research director at Take This, a nonprofit focused on mental health in the video gaming community, says that the biggest risk is people preferring virtual life over real life — an issue that would only worsen someone’s real-world anxiety.
All we know for sure is that the technology is coming one way or another. Allowing the public to have a say in how it is developed, as well as preparing for its ramifications, is the healthiest thing we can do right now.