Issue #2 on Mental Health in the Cryptoverse - The Potential Darkside
First of all, I would like to thank all the people who have reached out and shown interest in the topic of #MentalHealth in the Cryptoverse/Metaverse. It is clear that such topics NEED to be discussed and I am happy to be involved in these discussions and debates with all my readers.
While there is a lot of hype and positivity linked to the Metaverse and its potential, little is being said about the consequences that it may bring with it. In my previous article, we explored how Social Media and the Metaverse can help raise awareness to challenge the stigma on mental health. However, social media is also the root cause of many mental health issues, will the Metaverse be any different? Or will it make things worse?
The Darkside of Social Media
Sometimes we tend to forget how recent social media is. It has become such an integral and vivid part of our everyday lives and culture that it almost feels like it has been there for decades. I don't feel like I need to delve into why social media has become so popular, as we are all aware of its application and uses. Instead, I will highlight the harm and influence it is having on our Mental health but individually and as a society.
- A False reality - One of the most harmful consequences Social Media has brought with it is this sense of a false reality. People are very selective of how they want to portray themselves online, who wouldn't be? People only share their positive news and rarely share news that could shine a negative light on their image. Social Media has become full of fake smiles, false hopes and news that can be highly superficial and manipulated to gain more likes and attention. So how is this related to Mental Health?
--> Reality can become subjective once we cannot differentiate between what is real and what is not real. Someone with low self-esteem, an unstable sense of reality, or a lack of social skills might get sucked into believing that reality is what they see on social media. This can become extremely problematic. To visualize how this might feel, I like to use the following thought experiment.
Imagine you're an alien who was sent to start a new life here on earth. You have no understanding of human culture, history or ethics. The only source of information you have to learn how to fit in is social media. Would you be able to learn how to fit in? Probably not.
Social media is threatening our sense of reality, it is a construed fake reality that we have become addicted to, because who wouldn't prefer to live in a reality which is filled with this false sense of positivity, popularity and opportunity? So far, we have only been able to participate externally in this false reality, we are still living our day-to-day lives and can only dedicate our time and attention to social media. But what happens if we are given a chance to actually live in this reality?
Enter, the Metaverse.
The metaverse is going to present the opportunity to give this false reality a chance of moving one step closer to our reality as we know it. A virtual world where one can 'live', own land, start a business, socialize, fall in love, and have agency on one's own identity and looks. A world that threatens our humanity and imperfections.
From a Mental Health point of view, it is worrying that we are moving closer towards a situation where the line between the real and virtual line is becoming thinner with each passing day. The danger of slipping too far into a virtual world and losing a sense of real life, real self, and real priorities can have dire consequences to our health, not only individually, but also as a society.
People who might be unsatisfied with the way their real life and real self is going might see the Metaverse as a second chance to start a new life without the daily struggles and pain they experience, but are we really solving our problems by doing so, or are we simply escaping from them even further? Will we be able to keep up our relationships, jobs, and life goals if we are investing ourselves and time into this virtual reality? Even worse, would we even care about them anymore?
Some might say, adults, are responsible enough to make that decision and take that risk if they want to. People have made a living thanks to social media, it has given people the opportunity the create a brand, raise awareness, create jobs, and get a following. But what happens when we introduce children in this argument? There is already so much evidence that shows how the virtual world is impacting our children's mental health. Mental Illnesses have skyrocketed in children, social anxiety and a lack of motivation to work can already be noted in our youth. Their attention is fixated on this virtual world because their brains cannot physically handle the dopamine overload our society is feeding them ( while exploiting and profiting from them, but that's a topic for another day...). It is very likely that our youths will also find a way to enter the metaverse just as they found ways to enter social media, gaming, movies, and pornography even though the law states otherwise.
We must be able to admit to ourselves that we have failed our children when it comes to mental health and the virtual world. It is understandable that we have not found a way to protect them since the Internet & Social media are so relatively new, research is still being done and awareness is stil being raised. Yet, if we are now going to introduce the possibility of actually living in this virtual world before we discuss what can be done to protect the state of our mental health as a society, then we are simply admitting that we haven't failed due to our lack of understanding, but rather we have failed because we don't care.
We need to prioritize discussions and awareness of the consequences this virtual reality may have on us as a society. Pressure needs to be made to make Mental health Awareness a priority in the implementation of web 3.0. The beauty of the Metaverse and Web 3.0 is that they are trying to be decentralized. Unlike Social Media, it is not governed by centralized companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and so on. Decentralization offers the ability to let the people decide and vote on the future and direction that the Metaverse and Web 3.0 will take. We can't stand behind the excuse that "there is nothing we can do about it" anymore. We have the power to influence the direction this technology takes, and it is our responsibility to make it move in the right direction.
The dangers of living in virtual reality are unknown, but to a certain extent, predictable. This article has simply covered the general idea of shifting from having access to a virtual world to living and existing virtually in this world. There are many other topics that could be included in this conversation, such as the addictive behavior that social media brings with it, how will this be translated in the metaverse? Or the freedom of choice, the ability to choose the world you want to live in. The metaverse will not only consist of one virtual world where you have to fit in, but you can also find multiple words which are catered to meet your desires, or you can even create a world that works the way you want it to. How dangerous can this be to our society?
There is too much that needs to be discussed, but we need to start talking about these potential dangers today because this virtual reality will be here before we know it.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
What topics do you want to see discussed next?
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The artwork in these articles has been provided by users from the community of Torum. A social media platform specialized for crypto-enthusiasts. The support I have received from this community encouraged me to keep on writing about Mental Health in the cryptoverse and this community gives me hope that when used in a decentralized way, social media can indeed be positively impactful. If you want to join the community - check out Torum HERE