Last week, while reaping a negative PR blitz, Facebook the company announced its new name, “Meta.” Maybe they should have added a “The,” you know, to make it messier. ”The Meta.”
From what I’ve read, people will be able to make a new account on Meta, separate from the Facebook site. If that’s the case, then I look forward to NOT creating a Meta account. Ever.
If Mark Zuckerberg creates a unifying and all-encompassing interface/platform to access the ever-present nebulous metaverse — isn’t that really just cyberspace? — that billions of people are to rely upon, then he will be an ever more powerful gatekeeper, more than he already is for the current set of apps/services: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.
If Meta finds success, then will the CEO’s increased power be matched with an increase in responsibility with accountability? And if Zuckerberg’s legion of employees already cannot adequately moderate the company’s current social sites, then how can they be the watchmen for the larger metaverse? Finally, after 17 years of existence, the US government is just now starting to regulate social media. How long will it take to regulate the metaverse, let alone understand what it even is? These and related questions deserve careful consideration.
At the same time, I doubt the overall idea of accessing the metaverse via a unified augmented reality interface through multiple advanced tech devices. Such lofty and ambitious sci-fi claims are somewhat confounding and dubious. While certain niche applications may find utility in a hi-tech conceit like the metaverse, I don’t think that paradigm will become ubiquitous.
One reason is the simple fact that, no matter how affordable devices become, most people who don’t already wear glasses, for example, will not want to suddenly wear glasses — no matter how “smart” they are — just to use a “computer.” Expecting billions of people to submit to the daily wearing of specialized gear other than maybe a watch on their wrist — which is already a relative sign of privilege or luxury — is naive and overly optimistic. If the brand was known for quality software and hardware and had a good reputation — like Apple — then maybe this would be plausible, but it’s the privacy-challenged Meta/Facebook company, which continues to erode what little trust it has, if any.
“Meta” may expand the scope of Zuckerberg’s reach and influence, for better or worse, and it might be, for the sake of argument, a positive step forward. That said, instead of fully accounting for social media’s extant data privacy issues, among other business ethics concerns and global-scale controversies, Zuckerberg is charging ahead with bigger ideas. This seems reckless, akin to his former mantra, “Move fast and break things.” Must society suffer repeating the broken record? Not wanting to sound alarmist, I mean to err on the side of caution — not warning — which is warranted given the years of scandals and now hard evidence from the Facebook Papers; social media needs correction rather than expansion.
I’d like to think I’m overreacting and that “Meta” is just a new name for Zuckerberg’s existing company, nothing more than a re-branding, so there’s no real change to see here; move along. However, the metaverse idea reflected in ”Meta” shows that the Facebook CEO remains as ambitious as ever, and it suggests a greater unification of Meta’s family of apps and services, a refocusing to bolster whatever Zuckerberg wants to build. It’s like adding more reinforcement to the foundation of social media while the underlying ground remains unstable, causing constant upheaval.
What can or should people do? If not delete Instagram or delete Facebook — and if nothing else — then this: do not create an account on Meta. Don’t join Meta. Resist ongoing years of controversy from Zuckerberg’s productions and avoid cycles of #DeleteMeta. Cut it off before it starts.