Now, who’s going to tell Mark Zuckerberg?

Photo by stem.T4L on Unsplash.

During the annual NFL Super Bowl, companies shell out enormous sums to show their commercials to a captive audience of over 113 million people. With such a large reach, it’s no wonder the event is so attractive to advertisers.

Meta, nee Facebook, was no exception at the 2022 Super Bowl, but the commercial may have missed the mark with its intended audience.

In the ad, a sad-eyed animatronic dog loses his gig playing music at the local pizzeria. The dog manages to get ahold of some Meta goggles, forms a new virtual band, and lives happily ever after in the wonderful world of the Metaverse.

The “Metaverse” is a term used to describe a virtual universe that is fully immersive and interactive, similar to the real world. Theoretically, it’s a virtual world where users can interact with each other, and with the environment, through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.

The Metaverse is often envisioned as a place where people can engage in social activities, such as attending concerts, playing games, or exploring new places. It is also seen as a platform for commerce and education, with businesses and institutions using it to conduct virtual conferences, trade shows, and classes.

The concept of the Metaverse has gained popularity in recent years due to the growing interest in virtual reality and the increasing use of technology in our daily lives.

Facebook changed its name to Meta in October 2021 to reflect its shift in focus from being a social media company to becoming a company that is dedicated to building the Metaverse.

In addition to the name change, Facebook also introduced a new brand identity and visual language to reflect its focus on the Metaverse.

Maybe Zuckerberg was entranced by the sci-fi fantasy bestseller-turned-blockbuster Ready Player One. What an incredible, immersive cinema experience it was. The book’s author created a fictional virtual world into which many fans longed to fall.

If so, Zuckerberg missed the central premise of the story.

In it, the fictional real world had become as joyless and uninhabitable as a cell in solitary confinement.

The fictitious virtual world into which humanity had plunged itself was as much an escape as the homemade alcohol prison inmates resort to making or the bottles of whiskey soldiers in the Civil War used to help them endure the agony of battlefield amputations in the dark days before William T.G. Morton invented anesthesia.

Ready Player One was a success because it juxtaposed its fictional, dystopian future with a reminder that there are no other alternatives. Reality is unhabitable and inescapable. Reality is unendurable and it must be endured.

Temporary escapes, even those imminently more distracting and immersive than being an avatar in a glorified video game are just that; temporary.

The cartoon dog fired from his beloved band gig won’t ultimately find much fulfillment in living in a world of pure imagination, even if that imaginary world is occasionally populated by real-life friends or acquaintances. Sooner or later, it will seem a poor, sad substitute for real-life experiences and connections.

The guitar-playing dog might do better to visit the local music store, meet some new musicians, and form a new musical project. Not immediately, but after a time — as is often the case — the dog might find himself loving the new group’s gigs even more than the old ones.

Reality, try as we might to escape it, tends to reassert itself. Not even Mark Zuckerberg can avoid it forever.

Eventually, the rubber meets the road for all of us: At some point, if we’re lucky, we will be forced to face the prospect of our mortality and reflect on how we spent our limited years.

As we approach that inevitable date with destiny, very few of us, if any, will wish we’d spent more time sitting in front of a computer screen.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)