‘Social Web’ isn’t all that social, #VR should change that

I’ve been a VR enthusiast for the past 10 years now. I’m one of these crazy people who stuck around in Second Life, so I’m probably biased and hold myself with self important relevance to Virtual Reality.

I have an existence that has such notions as ‘teleportation’ and being ‘Inworld’. I sit down on Sunday evenings and go to ‘meetings’ while not actually moving anywhere and after an hour step away from the computer with memories of the people i had just met and talked to discussing projects and health.

I have used services such as Facebook, Myspace, Google and Twitter, more commonly known as ‘The Social Web’, but i’ve always been confused at why it’s called this as it’s mostly not really all that social. most cases it’s just a notice board. How we started to believe this was socialising is perhaps the biggest marketing scandal of the information age. And we are teaching our kids this lie.

Four years ago i chose not to use Google or Facebook anymore, but i do use twitter, not to socialise, but rather to extend contact with my friends in virtual worlds. The people i interact with in Second Life hold a deeper connection on twitter than others i simply follow. I believe this to be down to the type of extended language we get with virtual worlds and the freedom.

In the past i’ve heard suggestions that watching a live video stream of a friend is equivalent or even greater for face to face socialising than an avatar in a virtual space. But i’d argue that while you gain the sense of body language, you miss out on what i regard as one of the most important aspects of Virtual Worlds. Shared interactive realtime responsive freedom. (Sirrf) 😛

I grew up in the countryside without computers, or the internet or mobile phones. I’m most likely pretentious in thinking that due to my upbringing I’m apparently more suited to empathising with fellow users of virtual worlds, compared to these social web natives of today.

The world had the chance to explore virtual realities and expand their feedback loops, but instead chose to hand over privacy in exchange for shared free notice boards, which slowly chipped away at the ability for kids to empathise with each other.

Don’t go thinking virtual worlds are the same as these glorified notice boards though. If you come to virtual reality with no ability to emphasise with people then thats how you will be in virtual reality. Virtual Worlds even have a word for people who’s actions are probably due to a lack of empathy, ‘griefers’.

I’d even go so far as to postulate that virtual worlds rather than causing a lack of empathy, will help a person build empathy and that over time as VR, AR and ,VW’s improve will expand our ability to communicate in digital spaces. These tools could assist many reach positive levels of mental healthiness that could help in all aspects of life.

My point is though, that the world is awash with so called ’Social Web’ but to my mind Second Life is the only place where i’ve truly felt i’ve socialised with real people in digital space.

This post was inspired by thought i had after reading a recent article by Reuben Steiger

3 thoughts on “‘Social Web’ isn’t all that social, #VR should change that

  1. To me social media, such as Facebook, is social, in a way.
    But not like VR, just different.
    Because I actually know all people I am friends with on FB in RL and see their RL pictures and stories, I am more or differently connected to them than with people I know in VR.
    Although VR avatars are more than just pixels and in many case feel like friends to me, there still often is a disconnect with RL, most people I know in VR I do not know in RL, I often don’t even know that much about their RL.
    I also, as someone who hates using telephones or texting, have to say that thanks to FB I’ve improved the contact I have with my family, who live in another city and I don’t see very often.
    We’re closer now thanks to horrible social media.
    I hate it, but that is just the way things are.

    I think it is going to be very interesting when VR avatars become actually lifelike and even more like real people and when VR becomes more like FB in the way that even my mum will be using it to tell me what she’s been doing today or chatting about that diner party we’re planning.
    The difference between social media and VR socialism (;)) will one day perhaps melt away.

    As for empathy, I’m not sure where I feel it stronger.
    When my RL friend died and I learned about it on FB, I was sad and cried.
    When my SL friend died and I learned about it in SL, I was sad and cried.

    • You and i both have the advantage of being brought up in a world where there was no Social Web to start with. I’d like to read more research on how youngsters who have only been socialising through the social web act in both a real world social situation and also Virtual world situations. From the stuff i have read so far, i’d find it fascinating.

  2. A coin have two sides.

    For myself virtual life is almost more real then real life. Going to meeting. Meet people in a club. Learn new things. Virtual world is a safe environment for a group of people compared too real life. Newer developed virtual worlds like high fidelity and sansar want to make things more realistic, also with the facial expressions and other signals. wave with hand or blink with eye. It’s nice to see some more body language.

    But there we have the other side of the coin. There people that feel safe in environment world because the amount of information is limited or can be limited. But with the future where body language can be more realistic, It can be scary for a group of people. But, it can also be a way to learn to understand it and how to react or what to do to avoid problems. let’s call it sensor overload.

    So if people approach it in the right way, a virtual world is giving more and bring people closer to each other. Am not so sure if social media is doing that, avoid it myself most. Only use some social media to write some information about virtual worlds, I do not use social made for real life, that is why facebook is so evil. The force people to use real life information. company’s only think in facebook. No facebook no change to use the play and win.

    There’s only one weak spot with social or virtual life. you not always know what’s at the other side. That can be good. But for me it also can create confusion. Sounds strange, voice can help. But need to fit with the avatar. Voice morphers are bad and more confusing ! I like chat, and still see that as most important and best way for communication. But since i use high fidelity, i noticed that for some things voice is nice to. Without a virtual world i would hare some things still, but is now more acceptable. That did show for me the strength of a virtual world. But you need to stay open for some changes and learn.

    I know that the first years of my life did not have computers. The just where not available or very expensive. Real life is this days very annoying , be outside and look around. kids have more attention on there bike ! for there phone then the traffic or things around them. It’s sometimes scary if you see how rude some are with privacy from others.

    Virtual world did bring me in contact with some people. what otherwise not did happen. Still prefer virtual life, if at some point two thing finally get together at one place. friends and your own big piece of land or sim that you call home and is in the low budget range to own. Now you still bounce between world or get a bit down because some dreams are still out of reach.

    Let’s finished this over sized post with the words. That i have a few real life ‘friends’ with the same hobby. yes,virtual worlds, then i did have before, I can still say that real life is boring and lonely compared to virtual life. And if the planets are aligned right someday virtual life must be complete perfect !

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