Since last year, I’ve spoken with other parents who feel the same way about the negative effects of the virtual world on their children. Concerns we had about the dangers of too much screen time among children and teens were confirmed and amplified at the start of the pandemic. Nearing the third year of COVID in our communities and the daily uncertainty of getting to and staying at school, I’ve seen my own preschool-age children become more comfortable with virtual circle time and less enjoy in-person birthday parties, playdates, and trips to the library.
Leadership in Metaverse Gold Rush
As a result, millions of students around the world are falling behind and their mental health is suffering as a result of isolation, uncertainty, and fear. Bullying and other forms of unwanted behaviour may become more prevalent as children spend more time online. Even more worrisome, the level of online hostility between young people increased by 70% during lockdowns. As the education system struggles to keep up with rapidly shifting priorities and unpredictability, many of the traditional pillars of the childhood experience have been thrown into question.
As if this wasn’t enough, the metaverse is about to explode. Despite the fact that we have the ability to shape the future of the metaverse, many companies will forge ahead on this present-day Oregon Trail, with little regard for the consequences for its users. As with many industrial and cultural shifts, the corporations leading the charge will ultimately determine the shape of the metaverse’s foundation, which is a collective responsibility.
To some extent, innovative companies leading the gold rush could be beneficial, but only if they deliberately and consistently make decisions that are in line, beyond the pursuit of profit, with their stated Purpose and actively seek to identify and mitigate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks when bringing new products and services to market. “Outside-in versus inside-out” thinking is an opportunity for business leaders to ponder how to find purpose in this rapidly evolving industry. When a new version of the internet comes along, brands can ask themselves, “What does it need, and what can we provide uniquely?” As a result, businesses will be better able to balance profit and social good, resulting in longer-lasting contributions to the metaverse.
How is the effort to influence sustainable consumer habits going?
Our Brands for Good collaboratory and The Harris Poll have released the latest Sociocultural Trend Tracker research, which examines consumer progress in adopting more sustainable behaviours and brand trust scores during this unprecedented confluence of societal crises.
Our ability to incorporate brand purpose and ESG planning into the early stages of an industry is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. It’s time for us to do more than watch history repeat itself. Existing problems in the metaverse include everything from data privacy and security to IP protection and the impact hardware infrastructure has on our environment.
What is the next step for the internet’s evolution?
For the most part, when we talk about the metaverse, we’re referring to how the internet has developed over time. Individually, this issue should be concerning and of interest to all of us. Nevertheless, if there was ever a better reason to pay close attention to the metaverse’s potential, this is it. Gaming community Roblox, for example, attracts nearly 50 million users every day. Gaming and social media users alike are already dipping their toes into the metaverse, whether they know it or not, because Roblox is just one of many such communities.
Were we ready for the internet’s newest era? There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of determining the long-term effects of internet platforms like social media on young people and our culture. The impact of social media on the cognitive and emotional development of adolescents is still being studied by experts. American Psychological Association: “We don’t yet know how growing up with digital technology is changing teen brain development.” Social media has many advantages, but we have only just begun to consider and address its drawbacks.
That’s not to say there aren’t business opportunities in the metaverse, but rather that the gold rush cannot be pursued at any price. In order to avoid the mistakes made by other industry leaders who moved too quickly to capitalise on opportunity at the expense of people and the planet, it is critical that brands building the metaverse articulate how they will fulfil their brand purpose and put in place ESG guardrails ahead of time.
Opportunity for Purpose Leadership in the Metaverse
Metaverse mainstreaming could be worth over $1 trillion in the next few years, according to recent research. When the opportunity presents itself, major tech companies and brands from a variety of industries are ready to seize it. As evidence, consider Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, Halo, Candy Crush), which “creates the building blocks for the metaverse,” or Facebook’s rebranding as Meta Platforms, Inc.—followed by its jaw-dropping investment in VR hardware—and its renaming of itself as Meta Platforms, Inc. RTFKT, a virtual shoe company that made over $3 million last year selling 600 pairs of virtual shoes in six minutes, was recently purchased by Nike.
However, this ‘next stage’ of the internet already has a dark side and some early risks that have been identified. Here’s one more from the long list: Researchers with the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a nonprofit that analyses and seeks to disrupt online hate and misinformation, spent nearly 12 hours recording activity on VRChat, a virtual world platform accessed on Meta’s Oculus headset,” reports NBC News. Every seven minutes, the group logged an average of one infringement, ranging from sexual content to racism to abuse to hate to homophobia, and often with minors present,” the group said in a statement.