Let’s face it, it’s nice to own things. Why else do we amicably part with a significant chunk of our wallets every year for the latest iPhone when our current model works just as well?
It’s satisfying to unbox that little money sucker for your adoring friends to ogle at. We do this for the ‘Gram with cars, clothes, and calories (read: expensive food), too.
However, over the years we’ve made some concessions to what we’d like to own physically. For example, most of us have gotten rid of our music collections. And you can forget about watching movies on discs anymore—that’s been sacrificed to the gods of streaming too.
Adding to all this, in October, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans to form a separate world for you to live in where you don’t own any physical things: the metaverse.
Brought to you by his rebranded company Meta, the metaverse of his dreams is one where you work, play, and connect with others in a virtual world all from your home in the comfort of your pajamas—because what else could we possibly need after being forced to stay at home for all of two years? Another 10 more years of staying at home, of course.
The rise and rise of the metaverse
From digital artworks that sell for $69 million USD to virtual sneakers that raise $3.1 million USD per pair, owning and producing digital versions of things we enjoy in the real world is big business.
Even though gamers have been making money selling rare in-game items online for actual dollars, even up to $6 million USD in one case, buying and selling digital items has only recently risen to mainstream status due to the popularity of NFTs.
We suppose since the world went into lockdown, the only way you can properly flex is with an ‘online receipt’ that proves you’re a baller. Need some external validation but can’t post a picture of you in a $30,000 USD airplane seat? How about a certificate that proves you own Nyan Cat, priced at $580,000 USD?
Can’t hashtag #withmyrideordie at this year’s Burning Man on Instagram? No worries, here’s Kings of Leon’s NFT album, currently on sale for 369 Ether or $1.6 million USD.
Does owning physical things even meta?
As it turns out, yes. Those virtual sneakers we mentioned earlier, come with physical recreations of the digital shoes. The NFT album by Kings of Leon also comes with physical perks, like a vinyl of the record and passes to attend physical concerts by the band.
The issue, when it comes down to it, is ownership. When our Flying Spaghetti Monster overlords finally shut down the servers to iTunes, who owns your Digital Deluxe version of Let Go by Avril Lavigne (the defining album of the aughts)?
While we hate buying our 10th copy of 500 Days of Summer – now in HD Blu-ray – it’s at least ours to keep, watch, or if we want, to smash into pieces. Just like our lives, these things we own are ours to ruin.
In Meta’s metaverse, even your appearance is owned by Zuckerberg. Now that Facebook is under scrutiny and Apple is muscling in on their ability to advertise, the Zuck needs to create a better form of control, so he’s building his own world. A world where he owns you, the dollar bill in human form.
Microsoft and Nvidia have their own versions of the metaverse to own the next big office space, the Internet. As teams continue to work remotely, these companies see individual methods for them to create a workplace in their own world and to literally own the workers of businesses who will be stuck on their platforms.
The big players want you to think that we can move into a digital utopia and have meaningful connection through heavy, expensive – and let’s face it – dorky VR goggles, but in this paradigm, you don’t own anything and corporations own you.
Choice, the problem is choice
The metaverse in some respects is a necessary evil. With the Great Resignation still underway and workers demanding more flexibility in the workplace, it seems like we can’t escape working in the metaverse.
But we can choose how much time we spend there.
In a super-connected world made of ones and zeros, physical objects like comfy shoes, a park bench on a cool day, and a nice-smelling book are great physical experiences we can have.
With physical objects, we are the masters of our choices. Lend a game to someone or send a loved one a mixtape – what you do with what you own is your choice.
With that being said, we’re going to get our CRT TV out of storage, plug in the PlayStation One we bought secondhand on eBay, and play Crash Team Racing on split screen with a friend, just as nature intended.
Cover Image: Tunnel Motions/Pexels, Martin Sanchez/Unsplash
Writer | Marcus Lee
Marcus is a failed accounting degree graduate, three-time lowest performing employee letter recipient, and father of two. His life motto is: You can't kill what's already dead inside, but keep trying. Air your grievances at him (his ex-bosses surely have) at @markuuslee.