Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Everything was perfectly convivial, for a Tuesday night. We chatted about the usual personal inanities, socio-political gripes, and deeply held feelings about linguine vs. spaghetti.
But then came words from another planet.
Love from a different generation
I don't know how we got onto the subject, but my friend's friend -- a woman of millennial years -- suddenly offered: "I love the metaverse."
Perhaps your Tuesday nights are different from mine, but if there's one thing I don't expect to hear it's that. Sincerely, I've yet to hear anyone tell me they love the metaverse. Which perhaps only suggests I should get out more, find new friends, or perhaps entirely new virtual worlds.
Still, to some ears, the exclamation "I love the metaverse" may feel akin to "Wow, I miss Google Glass" or " I admire all tech leaders for their limitless humanity."
So I had to ask what had driven this woman to such sincere passion. Naturally, I assumed she'd communed with some immensely cool nerdy people -- in real life -- who were all devotees. Naturally, I was grotesquely mistaken.
"My dad's partner bought some Oculus for her grandkids. They didn't want it. So she gave it to me to try and I love it," she said.
This was, of course, something of an eye-opener for me.
I'm not enraptured by anything that squeezes onto my head. I find crash helmets claustrophobic. So the thought of donning a mask to get out of this world isn't one that lifts me as much as, say, a well-made linguine vongole.
Yet to meet someone with such enthusiasm for her Oculus/Meta mask was a confrontation with a changing reality -- one that Apple clearly wishes to capitalize on with its Vision Pro.
Meta, which committed itself to the metaverse by changing the whole company's name from Facebook, insists it's ready for Apple's incursion into this heady space.
But are there really a lot of people in the metaverse? I always imagined there weren't too many, but as my colleague David Gewirtz recently reported, the Meta Quest 3 outsold Apple's AirPods on Black Friday.
Some people -- perhaps an increasing number of people -- want to get out of this world. For them, the Quest is an everyday adventure to another land, unencumbered by travel plans or severe monetary expenditure.
But as my friend's friend described how wearing the headset was not an encumbrance and perfectly punctuated her life, I couldn't help wondering about the changing world.
The power of disappearance
It's hard not to consider the power and prevalence of loneliness in this context. The internet made it very tempting to disappear into its entrails and not emerge for many hours. The pandemic exacerbated the feeling of emotional and physical solitary confinement for many.
Perhaps the true power of the metaverse is that, as with the best of vacations, your disappearance into it is absolute. Or as absolute as you can make it from wherever you happen to be (or feel) stuck. You put on the mask and you're gone.
Yes, Meta is focusing more on a mixed form of metaverse reality, where your real world is still there but with the (perhaps more exciting) virtual world layered over it. Yet my friend's friend insisted she loved it precisely because of its all-enveloping nature. She doesn't want her reality mixed. She wants to be out of it.
I might worry that many people are getting far more pleasure and affirmation in the digital world than they get in the so-called real one, but my friend's friend simply loves her Quest. To her, it offers a different life for a while.
Who am I to wonder what the (real) world is coming to when my friend's friend happily says: "Grandma loves her Oculus too."?