The New “Meta” of Social Media: Facebook’s Revival

Thomas Ou ’24
EE Entertainment Editor

The youngest self-made billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, has no shortage of surprises as he develops a daring new master plan to take over the growing metaverse. The CEO and cofounder of Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, has had his fair share of controversies and hurdles from privacy concerns to data usage within political campaigns. However, today marks an important day for both social media and technology as the company focuses more on the development of future innovations.

“From now on, we’re going to be the metaverse first, not Facebook first,” said Zuckerberg in the annual connect conference on Thursday, October 28. The company, in an effort to rebrand to better reflect their values and interest, has changed its name from Facebook to Meta. (Random side note to aspiring stock traders out there, a company known as Meta materials, which is completely unrelated to Facebook and the Metaverse, has seen a dramatic surge in stock prices. Please be sure to do research on the company before dumping your life savings on it). 

A metaverse, as the name implies, is a virtual universe of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people are able to meet, work, and play. This is done through virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps, and other devices, reflecting the shift into VR and AR technology these past few years. Mark Zuckerberg plans to bring the internet back to life and create an experience so realistic, people will have a hard time differentiating between reality and technology. 

“It’s the next evolution of connectivity where all of those things start to come together in a seamless, doppelganger universe, so you’re living your virtual life the same way you’re living your physical life,” said Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies, in a recent interview with NPR.

On paper, this seems like a premise ripped straight out of a Sci-fi film, yet the technology is closer than what many people have anticipated. Many other companies such as Microsoft and Nvidia have taken towards helping the development of the metaverse. Video game companies, for the revolutionary implications metaverse will bring towards the entertainment industry, have also taken towards the forefront of this development. The company plans to expand its beta participants in 2022 and will launch to all businesses by late 2023. 

Sophomore Demitri Resto gives an insightful look into the situation citing how “Facebook’s name has been tarnished over the years, and [they] wanted to change their brand name so that they would not necessarily associate negative terminology over the years from the name ‘Facebook’. Metaverse is also a cooler name, and caters towards entertainment or younger individuals. [It is] not about sharing yourself anymore; but rather entertainment through a ‘verse’.”

Demitri agrees that Facebook has every right to make this change, despite it being manipulative, but remains relatively indifferent on the issue because he doesn’t use Facebook as his primary media service.

Rarely has such a successful and well-known company so vigorously tried to sell a vision for a product so abstract and wanting. Facebook sees its already-battered reputation being trampled by a parade of whistleblowers, damning reports, congressional hearings, and, now, the Facebook Papers. In a year marked by scandals, the company stands accused of burying data gathered by its own researchers showing that its products are harmful to users, failing to stop groups that promote violence and sex trafficking, and watching the January 6 insurrection take shape on its platform. It should be almost imperative, if not required, for the company to shift attention away from its scandal-plagued social-media business and onto something flashier, grander, more inspiring.

However, it is my firm belief that despite the economic incentives, Zuckerberg is sincere in what he says. Facebook has not only become a breeding ground for misinformation and high levels of toxicity, it is just plain boring. Never have I seen a person under the age of 30 actually being excited to check their Facebook feed. Mark has all the riches to satisfy his greed, however cannot simply become content with his needs.

Perhaps simple statistics and money cannot measure one’s desire to change the future, to be remembered not as an apathetic robot who cannot satisfy its loyal consumers. David Karpf wrote in Wired, that historically, “metaverse” technologies like VR have been “the rich white kid of technology”—continually failing and yet being granted opportunity after opportunity to succeed.

Same, to a lesser extent, with AR, which Google famously tried to make happen with its glass and was laughed out of the room 10 years ago. Snapchat’s glasses barely made a blip, and the dustbin of technology past is littered with failed VR headsets.

Yet it is only through risks can a person truly be rewarded; accomplishments and happiness only made palpable through the threat of losing. In the end, the biggest risk of all is not taking any risk. As Zuckerberg himself once said, “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

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