What to Expect From Dating in the Metaverse?
Spoiler: It’s not the real deal
In his own, um, charming way, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been touting the “Metaverse” as the new way we’re all going to be interacting with the internet and each other. You can hang out with friends in VR, relax in VR, vacation in VR, and even work in VR!
The end goal is that you’ll be able to do anything in the Metaverse that you could do in real life and more — and, for better or worse, that likely means dating, too.
Probably for the gamers, dating in the Metaverse seems like a logical and exciting development, but for the rest of us, could, and should, Meta-dating be a substitute for real-life romantic connections?
First, let’s explore one of the main supposed selling points of Meta-dating: safety. Some people suggest that the Metaverse will remove the risks associated with in-person dates. At FFWD, we’re all about safety – heck, we build our entire product around it – but it seems counterintuitive that you can eliminate risk by creating an additional facade behind which your date can hide their true persona. On the contrary, this seems to offer more opportunities for catfishing, if not worse (accounts of sexual offenses in meta space seems to suggest that dangerous behavior may be undertaken with more impunity where you have the technological facade to barricade you against real-world consequences).
We think safety can only be assured when you show the real-life person off the bat, so that your real-life intuition can be invoked. And unless you plan to stay in the Meta-world in perpetuity (no judgment, gamers), you’re better off knowing sooner rather than later who’s the person behind the online persona.
Another “benefit” of Meta-dating is convenience. Sure, putting on a headset is way more efficient than getting ready for a real date but is that really a good thing? If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that going out into the real world should not be taken for granted. Also, if you can’t be bothered to spend a little time getting ready and dressed for a real-world date (or half-dressed for a Zoom date), then you’re probably not that interested in the person or dating overall. There, we said it.
Next, let’s consider the actual experience of VR dating.
Now, we’ve seen how dating changed during the pandemic, and with a lot of people going on Zoom dates, a Metaverse date might not seem that weird. Still, there’s some version of realism and intimacy with Zoom dating. You’re still face-to-face, in a sense. You still get a glimpse of the real life person, bits of their vibes and their real-life quirks.
In the Metaverse, though, you make an avatar. A cartoonish avatar. Of course, people have been making online avatars for decades in online games like RuneScape, Club Penguin, Second Life, but it makes us wonder, can you still experience the same vibes and body language quirks we identify in the real-world, or even Zoom, dates?
We think the answer lies in the pudding. And we’re not talking about the heavily-rendered ads Meta has been running on TV, but actual recordings of the Metaverse in its current form.
Here, take a look:
The Wall Street Journalist in the video describes the avatars as “trippy little LEGO-looking people.” Bottom line, as of now, the Metaverse is jank.
Even if, in time, Meta perfects the tools of its Metaverse to make you look more realistic, we still make the argument that the Metaverse can’t create the same feeling of intimacy that’s inherent with in-person dating.
It doesn’t replicate the experience itself: the pre-date jitters, the quick check of your hair in your phone’s camera, the first glimpse of someone walking toward you, the smell of their hair, the warmth of their hand on your arm.
These things can’t be replicated virtually, not until we live in a Ready Player One world — and we’re not sure that’s what we want (ever). There’s too much value and beauty in the real world to replace it with a virtual one entirely, and even those nervous feelings we experience when we’re dating add value.
Looking into someone’s eyes is a luxury reserved for the real world.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.