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Photo by Eric Risberg of The Associated Press / Seen on the screen of a device in Sausalito, Calif., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces their new name, Meta, during a virtual event on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Zuckerberg talked up creating a virtual reality "metaverse" for business, entertainment and meaningful social interactions.

Just call me an old man, a troglodyte, a Luddite, whatever.

I have no interest in becoming part of a "metaverse." That is the future Mark Zuckerberg's troubled Facebook is aiming toward as it renames itself Meta. And what is this Metaverse, you may ask? The New York Times explains:

"Zuckerberg painted a picture of the metaverse as a clean, well-lit virtual world, entered with virtual and augmented reality hardware at first and more advanced body sensors later on, in which people can play virtual games, attend virtual concerts, go shopping for virtual goods, collect virtual art, hang out with each others' virtual avatars and attend virtual work meetings."

That sounds absolutely ridiculous. And terrible. As with all new things, they appeal to some, maybe to millions, maybe even to most. But I have had to put my foot down.

I keep telling myself that I must live in the here and now, that social media, in many ways, hinders that.

Don't get me wrong, social media has many virtues, and I have not and will not turn away from it completely. After carefully curating the people, institutions and outlets that I follow, I now encounter more information than I could ever have imagined, more information than I can process.

Furthermore, social media is another publishing platform, and as a person who produces content that is published, social media was another outlet for me.

Also, keeping up with and connecting with friends and family has never been easier.

That said, social media has so much ugliness, so much envy and covetousness, so much misinformation and manipulation, that its prominence in my life holds more problems than benefits.

I have attempted to reorient myself primarily to the real world. To write more things that I don't immediately share. To write for the idea and not for viral impact — things that no one may "like" but that I still want to find a way to craft into their clearest form.

I want to share more pictures with the people I love and who love me — and not with the world.

I even believe that social media was altering my sense of people: how they looked and lived and ate. Everyone was trying to one-up the next person. People too often looked perfect. They went on amazing vacations, lived in immaculate homes and ate exquisite dinners. Some of those photos may well reflect reality. But like most humans, we have our good days and our bad ones. Social media distorts that balance.

Even what is supposed to be positive can become oppressive and annoying, like the torrent of motivational memes and affirmations. Something about it presents as performative.

I have been pulling back from social media for a while now, and I must say that I feel like an addict finally getting clean.

I am surprised — and embarrassed that I am surprised — at how meaningful it is to me simply to be more present, to strike up conversations with strangers.

I am more empathetic and diplomatic when I disagree with someone in person. Situations that I would have breezed by online, I linger on in person. The world is not perfect. It's not curated and filtered, and returning to the reality has caused a shift in me.

I now regret, although I try not to, years of wasted time in virtual space, doing all the things people told me I should: worrying about engagement, timing posts for optimization, reviewing analytics to figure out which things resonated and which didn't.

I was continuously carving and crafting an altered, more "likable" image of myself, that in the end I deemed too controlled to be completely true.

So, as Facebook and others move toward the metaverse, I will choose to move toward a truer version of myself, one that lives more fully in the here and now.

The New York Times

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