CIOs Have To Prepare For The Metaverse By Understanding It’s Mental Impact

How will the Metaverse change how we think?
How will the Metaverse change how we think?
Image Credit: Ian Hughes

The one thing that all CIOs are required to do is to prepare for the future. This means that we have to take a look down the road, see what we think is coming, and then help our company to prepare for it before it arrives. It is starting to look like this thing called the “metaverse” might actually have some legs to it and if it does, then CIOs need to start getting ready for it today. Although creating an online world that people spend all or most of their day in may sound fantastic, this may come to be. CIOs need to understand that this kind of behavior may have an impact on the mental health of the people who work for us. How could it affect them and what can we do to prepare for it?

Metaverse’s Impact On Mental Health

CIOs need to determine if the metaverse is good or bad news for people’s mental health. Silicon Valley’s focus on creating an immersive virtual world where our avatars go to shop, socialize and work has psychologists and other mental health experts considering what effects it will have on our well-being. Several technology companies including Epic Games, Nvidia, Microsoft and Meta Platforms are rushing to create their own worlds or at least the digital bricks needed to enable them.

Their visions for the metaverse have yet to take shape, but they could look something like a more sophisticated version of the computer-generated world Second Life. These new worlds would be powered by technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and incorporate elements of gaming, remote work and social media. In this type of world, headset-wearing users could attend concerts, participate in meetings or go on a class trip to Rome.

Some tech and mental-health experts say that every new technology – from radio to television to videogames – have sparked fears that it could untether users from reality, isolate them or even make them violent. Good news – it turned out that these concerns were largely unfounded. Research has been done that shows that genetics, socioeconomic contexts and other factors influence people’s well-being much more. The metaverse will probably be no different – it is only a matter of time before we end up seamlessly integrating it into our lives. However, some people believe that the metaverse is so revolutionary that it will alter the fabric of society, with profound consequences for our mental health.

What Will The Metaverse Look Like?

CIOs are going to have to understand that no one has studied the kinds of long-term impacts on people spending time in a world where everything’s perfect. We must realize that we’ve got people who are struggling in their daily lives, looking at the social media platforms, and they’re comparing themselves to the other people. However, at least in social media, it has to match up to who you are in the real world. Once you enter the VR, you can lose that constraint. People will have less ability to create an accurate version of themself in the metaverse than there is on today’s social media platforms, and where the skew is towards better-looking, idealized avatars. The real challenge is going to be when people are spending a lot of time there, and they’re in a world in which everyone is going to be just perfect and beautiful and ideal. CIOs are going to have to deal with how does that affect one’s own self-esteem downstream? Right now, no one knows the answer to that question.

How popular will this metaverse thing become? The assumption is that we’ll all inevitably become “sucked in” to a virtual world and we will want to spend more of our time there than in the offline world. This may not be a given, but it’s nevertheless important that CIOs take a thoughtful and ethical approach to developing metaverse technologies, rather than just go full speed trying to develop what currently seem like fantastical ways of interacting with each other digitally. Screens and digital technology can be a tremendous force for good in terms of keeping us connected. Of course, there are serious questions that we need to ask regarding how that can go wrong, and how harmful interactions and content can proliferate in the metaverse.

In order for CIOs to understand the impact that the arrival of the metaverse may have on their workers, they need to understand that context Is key. There are some basic building blocks of mental health that are well established. These include things like positive relationships, healthy sleep, social support, and physical activity. When we look at any new technology the question is not to ask how much time are people spending on it, but rather to say, is the way people are using it going to either promote those mental-health goals or is it going to inhibit them? If it turns out that using metaverse technologies replaces non-online behaviors that are healthy and supportive to mental health, like appropriate exercise, healthy sleep, engagement in relationships in real life, time spent in natural environments, then they can be harmful. These new technologies are going to accelerate the good things about social connection and, if we are not careful, potentially the harmful things as well.

What All Of This Means For You

As CIO, it is our job to make sure that our company is aware of any new technology that is on the horizon. It is our responsibility to make sure that we understand what this new technology looks like and how it is going to impact the company’s workers. One such new technology that is only now starting to show up is the so-called “metaverse” where online worlds are created that people can spend considerable amounts of time in. Is this going to be a good thing or a bad thing for people’s mental health?

There’s no question that creating the metaverse is something that a number of high-tech companies are currently throwing themselves into. When people enter into these new worlds, they will be able to go places and do things that they’ve never been able to do before. People have been concerned about new technologies when they arrived in the past. Those concerns have turned out to be unfounded. However, is the metaverse something different? One of the ways that the metaverse might be different from our normal lives is that everything and everybody in the metaverse may be perfect – no imperfections or flaws. It is probably important that we take it slowly as the metaverse develops, going too fast could have harmful effects. Mental health professionals know what it takes to maintain good mental health and the question is if the metaverse will contribute to these actions or take away from them.

I think that it goes without saying that the arrival of the metaverse has the potential to generate a great deal of change in everyone’s lives. We need to take the time and understand how this is going to affect everyone. Making sure that we don’t start to do things that could be harmful to our mental health will be critical. The metaverse might be a good thing, but only if we move carefully into it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that CIOs should limit the amount of time that people spend in the metaverse while at work?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

CIOs are struggling. Their team was sent home during the pandemic and they still have not come back to the office. In fact, it’s looking like many of them may never come back to the office. What this means for CIOs is that they have lost something very valuable: interactions. Workers will no longer run into each other, exchange ideas, and have flashes of inspiration. CIOs who would like to see if they could once again cause that to happen are starting to look in a new old direction: the annual corporate gathering.