Oculus, one of the two largest virtual reality platforms, is owned and controlled by the largest social media company on the planet, Facebook. In my last two blogs, I write about how social media addiction is a growing problem, driven by society’s desire for distraction. VR has been proven to be a distraction that is more powerful than drugs and alcohol, and potentially more addicting. Society is on a collision course with technology that could literally change the way we exist in the world.
It’s been said that if you are using a free service on the web, then YOU are the product, because you are being sold to advertisers. Facebook is a purely ad-supported service. 100% of their revenue is from advertisers. Over $50 billion a year. You are their product.
That’s why they work so hard at making social media addictive. Their revenue, and therefore existence, depends on it. Facebook has built algorithms to make sure we see content that aligns with our beliefs, so we are constantly surprised and delighted, which is how compulsion loops in video games and gambling drive addiction.
When Justin Rosenstein—one of the four designers of Facebook’s ‘Like’ Button—came up with the idea for it, he did not think it would turn into a cultural phenomenon.
“The main intention I had was to make positivity the path of least resistance, and I think it succeeded in its goals, but it also created large unintended negative side effects. In a way, it was too successful.”
If the distraction of virtual reality is so effective it can block pain as effectively as drugs, it’s easy to see how it will become the most addictive media ever. And that’s without designing features in to make it more so. In the hands of Facebook, Google and other advertising platforms, once the algorithms and compulsion loops are integrated, VR will become the most powerful drug mankind has ever invented.
VR comes with no prescriptions, no doctor visits, and no stigma, because the ad companies control it. They’ll make sure that we all feel good about wasting our lives away in the virtual realities they create for us. Think I’m being paranoid?