The company that owns the world’s largest social media platform is changing its name to Meta. Although meta is a prefix long used in English, what it means and why it is used are not subject to uniform views. For instance it can mean “beyond”, or “behind”, or “after”, or “changed”. Really, it is what comes after the prefix that helps us understand why it used. Thus, metadata refers to large scale data sets that may reveal greater insights about trends and developing concerns that are not apparent when looking at the detailed data one by one. There seems little doubt that the decision by Facebook’s owners to invest multi-billions of dollars in “metaverse” projects indicates why they have chosen their new name. But what is the metaverse?
Metaverse is a combination of meta and universe. It is intended to describe how technology can enable people to experience interactions not possible in the real physical universe. One aspect of the metaverse is the use of virtual reality to engage in games, or even business communications. Instead of interacting by being physically with other people, an electronic substitute is used, often called an avatar. The avatar may be given abilities to compete or communicate that are beyond the restrictions of normal life. By virtual reality, it is implied that something is very nearly, but not quite, the same as the real thing. As long as we don’t forget what the reality is, a close substitute can be very helpful. But often it seems the objective of virtual reality is to move a person into a completely unreal world, where they can be absorbed in experiences that can never be physically realized. And it also absorbs lots of time!
So much for the scene-setting, although we shall not do justice here to the potential benefits of clearer communication as technology moves on. We are more concerned about unexpected and unwanted downsides. The metaverse may be a surprising development for you or me, but it is no surprise to God! The idea of people wanting to escape from the drudgery and unwelcome limitations of real human existence is not new. For millennia there have been some who would try to enter a spirit world, to gain information or insights that others would not possess. God condemned such exploits, which often masked the intent of the evil adversary of God, Satan. See Deut.18:9-14. In a demonic twist he now induces people to exchange the real world for an imaginary one, and he deceives people into thinking evil is fun, whereas being in strong control of your thinking is made to appear boring. Check out 2 Tim.3:13 or Tit.3:3 or Col.2:18-23 for starters to verify these issues (and contact us if you need more references). In this context, the increasing use of hallucinogenic drugs and absorbing fantasy games is to be expected.
This is a website that attempts to give a biblical perspective, a Christian viewpoint, that addresses real-life concerns and interests. So, we must draw attention to Bible instruction like Peter’s words: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet.1:13). Or again: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet.5:8). Or the words of the Lord Jesus: ““But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap” (Lk.21:34). The battle is for the mind, and if allow our attention to be devoted to the unreal but attractive challenges of augmented reality or virtual reality, we may find our headsets are robbing our heads of their proper purpose! Christians are not immune to the drawing power of imagery, that can entangle them again in unprofitable pursuits (2 Pet.2:20). Entertaining ourselves in a virtual world cannot improve our usefulness in the real world, the world of people who need a Saviour to deliver them from eternal loss, not just a reduced point score or poor competitor ranking in a forgettable game. Paul summarizes the real battlefield: “… we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor.10:3-5). And if we are to succeed in taking the thoughts of others captive, we must start by carefully managing our own!
Many more examples could be cited, all indicating Christians need to be mentally alert, living in the expectation they will soon stand before their Maker. That may not leave us much time to spend in the metaverse!