If you were hanging around in 2006 you would have come across an idea called Second Life which offered an online universe in which you could meet others, build, buy and sell and explore. Some used it as a meeting point, as you could sit around a table beside a waterfall and conduct a virtual meeting. It was the next big thing. It wasn’t though. Second Life is still going however many figured out that interacting with real people was a superior experience.
Roll around 2022 and we have Mark Zuckerberg’s “new” idea to create an alternate universe, a metaverse to interact with others. Perhaps he is assuming that the people who did well with Zoom and similar through the pandemic will take to the Metaverse.
Perhaps its Mark’s robotic persona or his brilliant but perhaps impractical mind, or maybe it’s me. I don’t get it. Sure, it’ll be fun to try out. But then? If the vision is that people want to live their lives on-line, then this is mistaken. If the vision is to hook people into spending their lives as an Avatar then this is dangerous.
Zoom fatigue is a thing. But some people prefer Zoom – those not confident with people or who are sensitive to interactions with others can prefer to be at the other end of a screen if possible. However, while Zoom and the other tech did well through the pandemic when it was necessary, it’s not ideal. It negates the power of person to person interaction and the human connection so necessary to happiness and our feeling of belonging that drives a team to be greater than the sum of its parts.
We also communicate mostly through body language and a lot of this is missing with remote interacting. From a leadership perspective, belief and passion that power purpose, trust and motivation are diluted considerably by remote connection. This is why hybrid models of working must include real connection time in the schedule for teams and groups that work together. All of the problems of remote working will be made much worse by using avatars to communicate.
I was a fan of Facebook. The original idea was to connect people and allow them to stay connected over long distance. This was a good idea. But its been skewed now by misuse, bad algorithms and intentional polarisation. It replaced “the internet” which has become a search engine but also a purveyor of porn and similar. Is Facebook saveable? I don’t know. But creating a Metaverse to replace it is doing the opposite of connecting people.