When Mark Zuckerberg first announced his version of the metaverse, it came in the form of a few decorative presentations promising a new world, almost promising a life changed as we know it. It had been coming for some time as it was an open secret in the tech world/industry, so naturally it was being talked about. The word was out about this miraculous virtual world, so when the highly anticipated broadcast finally came, it was surprisingly met with a mixed reception.
Social media was lively with discussions of the launch obviously at the front of the online conversation. Many watched on and spoke excitedly about the opportunities that would come with this new world. The scene was set for a new stage to interact, do business, and even live. Others looked on skeptically questioning the need for it, and were quick to criticize the lackluster nature of a display that this launch which is promoting a new world, a new way of life, was.
Avatars, cartoonish looking beings surrounded by virtual scenes and backgrounds depicting different spaces that mirrored our current world flashed across the screen. Trying so hard to offer promise, to offer such hope that should make you want to jump through your screen and land on this new sacredly drawn ground. Shops, bars, clubs, even VIP spaces where you won’t be able to enter just as you’re not special enough to enter these VIP areas in our regular mortal world.
What caught my attention, however, was the prominence of gyms and fitness centres in the presentation. Clearly, the idea was to bring attention to these spaces in the virtual world. Market it to the growing population and popularity of the fitness market. There would in fact still be places to exercise, lift weights, and other forms of physical activity is the clear advertisement. It would surely be a marketing error not to try and promote it to a market that has seen exponential growth over the last ten years and is forecast to continue growing.
The idea of a virtual world would at first glance with any iota of common sense in fact probably alienate this huge market. I mean there is no actual capability of physical activity in a place where there is no real physical presence. I guess you can be exercising at home or at your gym while wearing your virtual goggles or logged into this ‘promised land’. But personally, I don’t really see the appeal in this. One of the more important elements of fitness activity especially if you want to push yourself is being present in the moment and movement which this would clearly undermine.
What really happens then is that it becomes just another space to socialize. The appeal is that it is a social space in the virtual world that is comparable with the real one. Don’t get me wrong, I love socializing at the gym. I spend a lot of time there, and as a social individual, it would be difficult not to. But my primary reason for being there is to work on myself, to exercise, to push myself. If it were only for social purposes, I may as well be at the pub instead of the gym.
Having said that, for content purposes, I can see why it may be attractive to some at least at first. Just a quick look at social media may give you the impression that fitness, health and wellness is more about the content than the actual benefits that can be achieved. In this vain then it is obvious that there is still a place for virtual gyms. Imagine the first ‘influencers’ creating their content in the virtual, they will definitely attract some added attention.
But it’s the effect that this might have on our fitness and wellness in the real world that could be disconcerting. While we live our lives as avatars, there may be less reason for one to actually keep their health and fitness on track. The capability of your avatar could finally outperform your physical self and lift those weights that you could only wish you were lifting. Or maybe there would be no need in the first place, as the avatar you chose already has the god of thunder like abs and bulging muscles.
My point is that if there is no need for people to see you as you or if you could finally let people see you as the reflection of what you think they want to perceive you, how many people will still find it a need to exercise or work on their fitness? Think about it, you won’t need to do any physical activity to achieve your desired outward projection.
If fitness is all about the physique, which it isn’t, it stands to reason that in a world where your physical body, look and strength no longer matters to the way people see you. Where you can configure your avatar to look exactly how you dreamed you would look, and where you won’t be pressured to impress people with your true nature and physical form, it wouldn’t matter so much if you let yourself go.
But don’t worry friends there will still be a place for you to create great new and exciting content. You can always visit the virtual gym and take ‘fitness’ selfies to post to your Instagram, TikTok or to who knows what other social media platform that will pop up in the new virtual reality.
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