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Feb 4, 2022

What Media Psychology Has To Say About Facebook and the Metaverse

by
Tori Stroup

Image courtesy of Pexels.

The online experience that we know today is going to be reinvented in the coming years.

As tech companies start to move towards virtual reality experiences that blur the lines between virtual and reality – you can expect that technology will become more immersive and out-of-the box.

If you’re in tune with what’s happening in the technology industry, then you’ve probably already heard the term the metaverse and that Facebook is changing its name to Meta.

The idea of the metaverse will allow you to connect with friends and family from anywhere, at any time in an experience that feels so real you forget it isn’t. It will allow you to attend concerts from your home and visit far away cities.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what the metaverse is, what it means for the future of technology, and how media psychology will help drive the adoption and understanding of the technology.

Here’s a quick look at the topics we’ll discuss:

  • What is the Metaverse?
  • What is media psychology?
  • What Media Psychology Has To Offer Facebook and the Metaverse
  • Is the metaverse the next big thing?

What is the Metaverse?

Before diving too far into things, we first need to discuss what the metaverse is.

The metaverse is an online world that merges virtual reality with real life. It allows you to become part of the experience. Rather than just read about something, you become immersed in it.

It allows you to connect with others with similar interests in other places, but in a more realistic way than what exists today. The metaverse will advance internet applications such as social media, healthcare, education, eCommerce, entertainment, and more.

In today’s world, you can sort of compare the metaverse to the world many gamers immerse themselves into when playing online with their friends. They’re transported to another world where they can connect with friends online anywhere, anytime, to complete missions and beat bosses.

Another similar example is how some museums use virtual reality to immerse you in a painting or time in history. These experiences allow you to feel like you’re in the moment and see it in a new light.

But the future of virtual reality experiences, and ultimately the metaverse, will be much more advanced than these existing encounters. They will turn these simple encounters into something even more realistic that allows you to connect and go on adventures from the comfort of your home.

When Did the Idea of the Metaverse Begin?

While the term metaverse is gaining a lot of traction recently due to the vision of Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg, it’s actually not an entirely new concept.

In fact, the term metaverse has roots all the way back to Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, which was released in 1992. This novel explored a 3D virtual reality space that people were able to access with personal terminals and virtual reality goggles.

Today, you can put on a virtual reality headset and transport yourself into a video game or experience. This is one of the ways you’ll be able to step into the metaverse in the near future. Image courtesy of Pexels.

That idea doesn’t seem too far off from the virtual reality world we’re headed to with VR headsets and other ways to immerse yourself into a digital world.

People with an eye for technology have been dreaming up a virtual reality world for years, and it’s finally coming to fruition. While the metaverse we’re talking about today promises to be more advanced than simply using VR goggles, Stephenson’s novel was one of the first steps towards this virtual world.

Where is the Metaverse Headed?

The metaverse tech companies are talking about today will span more devices than just VR headsets. It’s meant to be an easily accessible world that can be accessed through various platforms such as PCs, mobile devices, game consoles, and more.

So what can you expect to do in the metaverse?

These are a few examples of what could be capable in this new virtual reality world:

  • Going to a concert with your friends
  • Having a business meeting from your home office
  • Visiting locations around the world
  • Ride roller coasters at virtual reality theme parks

The possibilities are endless and the idea of the metaverse is something more companies are starting to take notice of. Disney has plans to create a theme park metaverse and Fortnite has also announced significant funding to build the metaverse.

So while it may only be an idea and early concept at the moment, you can expect to continue hearing more about the metaverse in the next few years. More and more companies are seeing the benefits of adopting this type of technology and put funding behind it.

If the early hype is true, then the metaverse could change how we use the internet and interact with each other online for good.

How Does Facebook Fit Into the Metaverse?

You may be wondering how a social media channel like Facebook fits into this idea of the metaverse.

In October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would become Meta. This rebranding was done purposefully to help prepare the brand for transitioning into the metaverse.

The rebranding of Facebook to Meta was just one step towards bringing the metaverse to reality. Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most vocal tech CEOs promoting the new metaverse and believes that this transition will put Meta at the forefront of the move to the metaverse. Image courtesy of Creative Bloq.

Zuckerberg’s goal is to lead the way and transform the Facebook we know today into a metaverse company that bridges the gap between virtual reality and real life. By changing the name of the platform to Meta, he’s making it known that the company is all in and devoted to developing the metaverse.

With Zuckerberg’s goal of turning the platform into a metaverse company, the current platform will likely start to make moves towards integrating into the metaverse in the years to come.

While other companies are starting to begin dipping their toes into the metaverse world, Mark Zuckerberg has made it his company's mission to make it happen. He’s one of the most vocal tech CEOs on the topic and has been promoting the idea throughout the last year.

What is Media Psychology?

Now that we have an understanding of the metaverse, let’s talk about media psychology and why it's connected to the metaverse.

Media psychology is the study of human behavior, thoughts, and feelings experienced in the context of media use and creation. It strives to understand the psychological perspective of the everchanging connection between humans and media.

Understanding how the human brain processes technology through thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can help us identify how different media types affect the users who engage with it. We can learn things about why people engage with things and how they start to form habits. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

A media psychologist can work across several different industries such as research, mental health, educators, developers, and more. They may also look at a variety of different types of media and technology ranging from radio and television to social media and virtual reality.

The study of the psychological effects of pictures, graphics, and sounds to better understand how these things influence the thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors of humans. It’s a vital area of research that allows us to truly understand how the technology we use influences our daily behaviors and feelings.

Many new technologies are reviewed from a technology perspective, but media psychology digs deeper to understand the impact on the individual. It peels back the layers to get down to the core of the technology and then evaluates how it will influence human thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors.

You may have made the connection already, but those in the field of media psychology have a vested interest in how the metaverse connects and affects the people using it. Media psychologists will play an important role in shaping the metaverse through valuable audience research and data.

What Media Psychology Has To Offer Facebook and the Metaverse

While there is still a lot to learn about the metaverse, media psychology leads us to believe that people will embrace the new technology as it continues to become more accessible.

Beyond the fact that it’s the next big thing, there are a few key psychological factors that come into play when you consider why this new metaverse will likely grab the attention of users and keep people interested.

First is the idea of psychovisualization. This is the idea that the human brain cannot differentiate the difference between virtual reality and actual reality. Our consciousness and perception allow us to buy into the experience around us as real.

This is what will make the metaverse feel so real. It will allow people to completely immerse themselves in the experience and forget about reality for a period of time. People will be able to feel like they can step out of their daily lives and take a break to connect with friends or virtually visit somewhere new.

Some of the other common factors that have influences on our perception and behavior include color, sound, semantics, and semiotics. Each of these plays to our senses and helps to make the experience feel more realistic.

Synesthetics, the blending of the senses, will then bring it all together to create an even more positive impact.

Media psychology also lends itself to helping identify and learn about habit-forming behaviors and how things like emotions and other aspects influence user behavior. This will allow creators to use these insights to create an experience that is more receptive to the experience as a whole and wants to come back to more.

Having these insights will become valuable as the metaverse makes its debut and begins to grow – especially when many may spread fear of how the new technology may affect social interactions and mental health.

Easing the Fear of New Technology

Anytime a new type of technology is introduced, there are always fears about how it will impact people using it. These fears have been present since the days of radio, television, and video games.

Many of these fears come from mental health experts who are unsure how the new technology may impact the audiences using it. They fear that the technology could disconnect and isolate people from reality, resulting in increased mental health concerns.

Media psychology will help track these types of trends and help determine whether the connection between the technology and the people using it is causing more harm than good.

As the metaverse continues to grow traction and becomes a more realistic form of technology, media psychologists will continue to study the relationship between the new technology and human behaviors and emotions.

This will be a significant part of understanding how the metaverse impacts the human experience and just how much influence the metaverse has in our daily lives.

Is the Metaverse Really the Next Big Thing?

The metaverse may or may not be the next big thing depending on who you ask.

It’s hard to really understand what the impact of this new technology will be until we can start to really understand what it looks like and how it works. Some people feel it’s simply a rebrand or expansion of VR technology, while others will tell you it’s the new internet, and we can’t fathom what its future holds.

As more companies join in on the conversation and start building experiences designed specifically for the metaverse, we’ll then have visibility into how this new technology could change our world.

Whatever you believe about the future of the metaverse, there’s one thing we can agree on – it is going to be a topic we continue to hear more about in the coming years.

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