The virtual self in the supposed Metaverse
Keywords:Identity, Virtual Reality, Meta, Metaverse, Embodiment
In October 2021, Facebook, Inc. changed its name to “Meta Platforms, Inc.” A key part of this rebranding involved Facebook’s long-term focus on virtual reality (VR) and the future of the supposed Metaverse. Significantly, as of November 2021, users have only been able to access the VR space of Meta if they sign in through their social networking account. While Facebook has suggested it will change this in the future, the specifics of this future have yet to be explained. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to explore the implications of identity within VR if identity within this space is tethered to a corresponding social networking account. Here we suggest the virtual self currently being forged in Meta forms a connective tissue between (1) early accounts of online communication enabling the body to be left behind and (2) more embodied approaches to identity in the context of digitality. We then argue that the virtual self is not a singular entity per se but forms a contiguous connection between the lived experience of VR and data gathered through social media about the identity associated with said experience. Finally, we argue conceptualizations of identity in VR (and Meta’s role in identity) will only become more pressing as Meta attempts to build its supposed “Metaverse” in the coming years.
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