Virtual Reality Is Already Here

 

Last summer I went to the beach with my fifteen year old niece. I told her she could bring her friend along. Any fifteen year old in today’s world is going to do the obvious. Get a good bikini shot for social media. Concerning, of course. But I get it. It’s a bikini.

I understood this process. I grew up on Myspace. It means the world to get a good picture of doing something cool when you’re a teenager (ahem…or an adult).

My friends and I are conversing in the water. I notice my niece and her friend getting intense with their photoshoot. Her friend was awkwardly squatted, phone in hand. My niece was in front of her splashing in the water and fake laughing. All for the shot.

They’d crowd their heads over the phone about every two minutes; checking in on the pics. I assumed after they got the best one they’d join us in the water. Nope.

After they got the shots they wanted, they both sat on the sand. Heads tucked down, knees high and phone shadowed in between. I imagine they were in the second part of their manufactured experience making, editing the photos.

They ended up spending the entire time on the beach on their phones.

This made me ask myself some serious questions.

Is this what going to the beach looks like in the future?

Is this what going to the beach looks like now?

Is this the new way people enjoy going out, by giving the illusion that they enjoying being out?

What my niece did is what I think virtual reality looks like during it’s infancy.

It’s choosing to opt out of a real life experience. It’s choosing to instead, create an experience on the virtual end. It’s more important for some people to show their virtual tribe what they’re up to than to enjoy it in real life.

I spoke to a party promoter who plans “boring parties on purpose”. He said it means more people will spend time on their phones attempting to look like they’re having a good time. This in turn, gives his parties more social media promo. His guests wouldn’t post as much if they actually been too busy having fun in real life.

This proves there is a common a virtual reality already among us, no headset needed. We see it in people dropping thousands of dollars to upkeep their virtual life in video games. We experience it when we reenact our “cheers” a second time to capture the perfect snap.

It used to be that women’s magazines focused on giving confusing sex tips and makeup tips. Now, they include confusing advice about how to upkeep/not care about social media too.

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In the June 2016 issue of Glamour “digital royalty”, Kylie Jenner, is on the cover of their “Social Issue.” Cozied next her face is the headline “534 Instagrammable Looks”.

In the June 2016 Issue of Cosmopolitan, Shay Mitchell is on the cover and to the right, you’ll see the headline “Her Social Tricks You Must Try ASAP!”.

I guess they mean social media tricks? Inside the same issue is a three page long story called “You Are Not Your Likes”. It explains how important it is for your self-esteem to not get so attached to your online perception.

The concern of this virtual reality is what it does to the normality of social interactions.

Will it be normal to document an exaggerated and posed photo in replacement of a good time?

Is it already normal?

Do experiences count of they aren’t posted?

Does a photo need a certain amount of likes for your experience to have mattered to you?

Social validation has always been sexy to humans no matter how far back you go in history. But, the pressure from social media might be serving it on a hot plate.

As always, this is an observatory piece. I am pointing out the changes tech is making in our social lives not to praise or shame. I just wonder if anybody else is catching on.

Are you?

 
CULTUREAlex Wolf