It is only 27 years since invitations to the first social network arrived in our inboxes — but already it has touched all of our lives.
As Instagram reaches two billion monthly active users and users look towards the AR metaverse as a way to own digital land and generate revenue, or shape the future of the metaverse, how do Americans feel about connecting online compared to the real world?
Facebook which now wishes to be known as Meta, is making a big bet on its metaverse, despite recently leaked documents showing that the company has long known its platform hurts sleep, work, relationships, and/or parenting for about 360 million people worldwide.
It begs the question: do people want to keep living in virtual realities or are they looking for something else in real life?
Neighbourhood platform experience company Venn has released its Trends Report for 2021. It surveyed over 500 people in Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City to explore Americans’ attitudes and behaviours when it comes to online and real-world connections.
It also wanted to discover how those attitudes translate to their living experiences, and what helps them to feel connected to the areas in which they live.
The survey showed that 43% of survey respondents wish they were more connected to their neighbours.
However, 44% reported having stronger connections with people on social media than with people in their real neighbourhoods, indicating that those online connections don’t translate to the real world.
It also seems that Americans need help connecting in the real world. Most respondents (63%) agree that it is important to live in a neighbourhood where they feel like they belong, and half reported that they want to be active members of their neighbourhoods.
However, two-thirds said they rarely spend time with their neighbours, participate in local events, or give back to their neighbourhoods.
Almost seven in ten respondents say they are not interested in Meta’s virtual reality project, the Metaverse, with 84% of Baby Boomers, 56% of Gen Z and 54% of Millennials expressing disinterest.
Recently Facebook has struggled to reach younger users and creators spending over one billion dollars to pay creators directly for their content. And it does seem that America has become more and more anti-social.
Cancelling plans is an unfortunate side effect of our social media addiction. Although COVID-19 has had a massive impact on our anti-social behaviour according to a recent survey by Simple Texting.
It surveyed over 3,000 people to find out how anti-social they were. The survey found that over four out of five prefer texting to calling. and four out of five people say they feel relief when cancelling plans.
However, almost one in three (28%) Gen Z does not trust any social media platform to protect their privacy according to a recent study of 1,500 Americans by ExpressVPN.
Although 100% of Gen Z surveyed had social media accounts, almost nine out of ten (86%) said that social media had a direct impact on their happiness.
This generation also expressed concern that social media companies are using facial recognition software (67%) and personal data for targeted ads (65%).
The good news is that people want to change. Almost half (45%) of Venn’s survey respondents said that they would be more likely to choose to live in a building that offers services that help them to feel more connected to their neighbourhoods over one that doesn’t.
Will the metaverse be the next way we socially connect? As adults spend more and more of their time online, it certainly seems like it will.
But unless our real life, personal connections continue to grow, the future could be very isolating indeed.