Metavers became a trend in 2021, which continued into 2022 and is expected to stay with us for a long time. However, the mental safety of a prolonged stay in the metaverse has not been proven. What consequences digital world enthusiasts should be prepared for ?
How can the metaverse be harmful?
Spoked with experts about the negative impact of metavers on humans. According to our interviewees, there are a number of repercussions for digital space enthusiasts to be wary of, including:
- Lowered self-esteem.
- Dependence on the virtual world.
- Disrupted social life.
- Loss of self-confidence.
Alexander Koridze is a psychologist, business coach, founder and director of the Self-Consciousness Centre for Psychological and Financial Education. The expert cites “cyber-bullying” as an example. According to him, online harassment can have a negative influence on self-esteem. Also, virtual reality tools can greatly enhance the effect of this “cyber-bullying”.
Alexander Koridze also noted that metavers can be addictive. The expert even believes that addiction to digital space will be stronger than addiction to video games.
“Prolonged stay in virtual worlds is fraught with consequences for de-socialization and potential loss of social contacts.”
The expert believes that with the development of metavers, their influence on the psyche will increase. He explains his point of view by the fact that with the development of technology, digital worlds will be endowed with functions that will increase their impact on people.
On the subject of the negative impact of prolonged use of virtual reality, the expert recalled the plot of the film “Surrogates”. The movie shows how a person can lose faith in himself and his worth by refusing to accept reality in favor of living in a virtual surrogate “body”.
The metaverse also has its good points
Experts have pointed out, however, that presence in virtual worlds is not always associated with negative consequences. Digital spaces, if approached correctly, can indeed bring many benefits.
Alexander Koridze believes that it is impossible to measure the impact of metavers in a one-sided way. Indeed, virtual worlds can have a variable impact on a person depending on their state of mind, character and other nuances. For example, some people use the digital space to make friends. Others, on the other hand, “drown” in virtual reality.
Interviewees also noted that metavers and their functions are actively used in various types of therapy.
Virtual reality and health
Indeed, the possibilities of virtual worlds are used to combat a number of psychological problems. As an example, Veronika Tyurina pointed out that virtual reality methods are actively used by psychotherapists in clinics in China to treat drug addicts. The program is as follows:
- The patient is equipped with a virtual reality (VR) headset. In this way, the person is immersed in the virtual reality created by the therapists.
- The patient is shown sensitive situations, also called “triggers”. For example, the addict sees a group of people partying in a nightclub. This kind of image makes him or her want to participate, which is registered by sensors attached to the body.
- As soon as the system detects an impulse indicating the patient’s desire to take part in the situation, the VR software triggers a series of video images showing the possible consequences of this lifestyle: suffering from cancer, losing one’s job, family, etc.
- During therapy, the following pattern of association is triggered: drugs – suffering. The pattern helps to “register” this association of concepts in the person’s reflexes. According to the expert, the model works in 70% of cases.
Veronica Tyurina also drew attention to the fact that virtual reality can have a positive effect in the correction of psycho-emotional, neurological disorders and low self-esteem. According to her, this result is possible with a dosed and short term use. Otherwise, according to the expert, a person’s psyche becomes dependent on the VR “simulator” and the desire to escape into the virtual world instead of staying in the real world and solving their own problems.
Alexander Koridze also joined the discussion about the possibilities of using digital worlds to solve mental problems. The expert believes that metavers, like video games, can also help build self-esteem.
“When a person plays, their biochemistry, sensations and feelings change. The person associates with his or her virtual character to such an extent that he or she transfers his or her emotions to it. For example, during a dangerous situation in the digital space, adrenaline rises in the person there,”said Koridze.
The expert also drew attention to the fact that digital worlds are used in the rehabilitation of stroke victims. Patients can use the resources of metavers to restore their motor function more quickly by redirecting everything that happens in the virtual space to themselves.
Moreover, as the expert noted, the metaverse can help fight phobias. Indeed, through the digital space, people can face their fears in a safe environment.
Veronika Tyurina summed up the discussion about the influence metavers can have on people as accurately as possible:
“If we make an analogy with real life, we can put forward the following: the virtual universe, in small doses, is a cure. In large doses, it is a poison. Digital worlds should not be abused.