Metaverse: the New Frontier to Wellbeing
In the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed intense discussion about the changes that one of the greatest technological tools of the century (and company) – Facebook – intends to carry out.
The name is Meta and the new reality is the metaverse. The metaverse is, according to Zuckerberg, where we can virtually meet, work and play using a headset, VR helmet, glasses or other devices. A real life video game, we might think.
The transformation that they present to us is that of mixed realities, in which we can be present in the virtual world while following an event in the real world. We can be like holograms next to friends who are physically in some other place. It’s a whole new world that the pandemic has accelerated due to the need for professional digital meetings or personal digital interaction that would mitigate the deficit of true social interactions.
But its implications that are still little-known raise pertinent questions, such as to what extent it can positively or negatively affect one of the main pillars of Wellness, mental health.
Despite several years of study showing the negative consequences of excesses of digital interaction, there are already several tools based on this technology that intend to have the opposite effect, that is, using these digital universes in treatments for social anxiety and other mental health problems. The ability of technology to evolve can allow a reduction in treatment costs and greater and better access for the population to them.
In these universes, the patient can navigate a doctor’s office or another social situation in the virtual space and learn over time to manage the feelings of anxiety that may arise. The immersion and feeling that one is actually interacting with another human being, or another character, allows the patient to work through layers of cognition and understand that the belief patterns they have are not necessarily true.
A peer-reviewed study by Oxford University psychologist Daniel Freeman concluded that patients who used automated VR therapy experienced a 38% reduction in anxiety and social apathy symptoms within a six-week period.
Thus, although the idea of a virtual metaverse may seem strange and even disconnected from beliefs of real presence and wellbeing, the scale and adaptability of VR will have valuable social uses. We can already imagine the potential of its use in future hotel units that facilitate self-connection, perhaps through these alternative universes.
If the Metaverse is still unknown, it is at the same time an affirmation that we have taken a step beyond the Internet we know today.
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