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Metaverse: Effects on our spirituality, wellbeing

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The metaverse is described as the inevitable evolution of the internet. It is the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds.

Metaverse is a brand-new idea that is revolutionising the digital entertainment industry. It is a virtual world where users can play games, build content and their own worlds, connect with other users, buy virtual land, and conduct other financial transactions using the in-game or platform’s native currency.

It is a virtual reality, which can currently be accessed with Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets, will be at the centre of this cosmos. A step back from virtual reality, augmented reality layers virtual components on top of real-world objects. For examples, consider Pokémon Go or Facebook’s new partnership with Ray-Ban on smart glasses. In a nutshell, Metaverse is a virtual world.

After doing lots of research on this innovative technology, the question that comes to mind is, one, is this the future or just a trend that will fizzle out in a matter of time? Two, will the technology be better than zoom video call, and three how will this affects our spirituality and wellbeing?

The simple answer to the first question simply depends on adoption rate to this technology. Just like how we adopted smartphones and they became ‘essential’ tools for our modern lives, I can see it becoming a ‘norm’ to have meetups in the metaverse if a large number of people adopt the technology and tools.

Will Metaverse be better than zoom video call? I will say no, though the meeting and seeing a real human face in flesh and bone was definitely a more authentic experience – than seeing a cartoon character of the person I’m meeting. So, no, I don’t think the metaverse would replace video calls.

Just like video calls won’t replace real-life meetups, but they can be the next best thing if you can’t meet someone in real life.

And on how will this affect spirituality and wellbeing? This is the big question that I feel we all need to ask ourselves.

The first thought that crosses your mind when you take off your headset and you’re back to ‘real’ life is how ‘boring’ real life looks like. It’s not as colorful and bright as the metaverse. And that’s a scary thought. There’s a sense of your wanting to go back to the metaverse utopia and escape this world.

This feeling reminded me of a powerful lecture I listened to few weeks ago, it reminded us of the power of the Dajjal at the end of times to manipulate reality and make what’s not real feel better and be more exciting than the real world!

So how do I feel this will affect spirituality and wellbeing?

Well, we’ve seen how social media can be a double-edged sword. Yes, some good can come out of it, but it can also lead to all sorts of challenges including, anxiety, and in some cases breakdown of families and society. So we need to be cautious as we’re entering the next chapter of the internet. We need to ask ourselves certain questions:

– How will this affect our spiritual hearts?

– Will this be a distraction from doing the real-life work of preparing to meet Allah SWT?

– Will it cause more confusion among the youth and a loss of their identity and character?

– Or will this be a safe space where people can meet and learn and grow? And a bridge to help people overcome certain social anxieties they have in real life?

It’s too early to answer these questions. But here are my recommendations if you’re planning to explore the VR/metaverse world:

1. Be intentional: Ask yourself, why are you entering this space? Is this for learning/experimenting or distraction/play? Be clear of your why.

2. Set guidelines based on personal values: What will you do/not do when you enter the metaverse? When will you enter the metaverse and for how long? When will you know that you need to stop and you’re being addicted and simply escaping reality?

3. Balance your VR experiences with high-quality IRL experiences: We are a middle nation. And we don’t go to extremes. You can engage in the VR world, but also have high quality IRL experiences with family and friends. Take your kids to the park instead of enjoying a VR vacation. Teach a workshop  in real life instead of just through zoom/VR. Be very conscious that you’re blurring what’s real and what’s not.

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