“Community”. We hear the word thrown around often – sort of like a game of hot potato. Especially in the growing blockchain and NFT industry, traders, collectors, artists, investors, fans, techies, and gamers alike seem remarkably impressed by the amount of meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships they’ve developed within a short amount of time. After a worldwide pandemic, connections like these are not likely to be taken for granted or short-lived.
Yet, is community, although valued, truly understood? If we really knew the power of community, would we allow such a noticeable lack of it within modern life? Is there a way to methodically, consistently cultivate these significant community connections once society bounces back to frenzied normalcy and the calloused apathy that comes with it? Will the connections we’ve cherished throughout the pandemic last once we don’t need them as much?
Let’s take a look at what “normalcy” in our society has been. When evaluating your own mental state and that of those around you, then and now, what do you find? Are your friends satisfied with their lives? Are they ever relaxed? Are you? Do you ever feel like you’re missing something? Who doesn’t? Lost in the daily grind of juggling responsibilities, it can feel like we lose a part of ourselves.
Community is essential to the human psyche. It provides a sense of joy and fulfillment. It combats loneliness. It helps us grow. Without community, we are like a rogue puzzle piece in the monopoly box of life. We crave connection, but feel obligated to fill our time with things more imperative to survival. Is this historically pervasive passivity to community detrimental to civilization?
Community is not imperative to civilization. Civilization has endless demands for more – more technology, more knowledge, more efficient extraction of food, energy, and materials. There’s an unspoken rule that we have to accomplish something palpably profitable almost daily. This isn’t a surprise when we have to pay constantly increasing bills, we have to provide for our families and keep them safe and happy, and we have to use what little time we have on this earth to accomplish some life purpose that we might not even recognize. We have to juggle physical and mental health, relationship issues, and fluctuating economic and political tides. Too often, we do all of this alone. All the while, we are expected to act like we’re okay – even when we’re not.
What does this have to do with community?
According to Miriam-Webster, the definition of community is:
“A unified body of individuals: people with common interests living in a particular area: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society, a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests- an interacting population of various kinds of individuals.”
Judging by the times, “community” as defined above sounds like something rather difficult to find outside of a religious cult. With the insurmountable obstacles of normalcy, i.e. time restraints, obligations, distraction, and even necessity, how do we find community, let alone prioritize it?
Virtual reality offers a solution.
Distance, once a major hindrance to connecting with like-minded souls, is no longer a factor. Thanks to the internet and social media, no matter where people are in the world, they can now connect and collaborate over mutual interests. Now in virtual reality, they can share interactive, inspiring and immersive spaces, whether it be a virtual office space, a dance club, a forest, or a shorefront villa. In Somnium Space, they can participate in team-building activities like mountain climbing, racing, and treasure hunts. They can share life-altering experiences, like live concerts, festivals, fine art exhibits, paintball fights (while flying in the sky!), and all out open-world exploratory adventures.
What separates Somnium Space and virtual reality from any old multiplayer video game? Besides the more immersive experience that comes with VR goggles, what is stopping community-hungry gamers from simply hopping on a popular co-op-style first person shooter or role playing game? What’s stopping professionals from spicing up their video conferences with a meal or drinks? Sharing food is a bonding, communal experience isn’t it? The answer is the metaverse.
Because of the security that comes from being built on the blockchain, the metaverse adds another useful dimension to “community”: digital ownership. With digital ownership, people can own virtual property, digital art, NFT cars, access to services and experiences, and more, thus providing a unique economy where individuals can strengthen their communities by trading and sharing these assets. The metaverse becomes an extension of reality and existing economies. Why negotiate over a video call when you can trade instantly, face-to-face, within the blockchain-based metaverse? Why fly halfway across the world for a sales pitch, when you can create an engaging presentation in a mansion designed by an award-winning artist, paired with a unique virtual experience (can you say “virtual yacht ride”?) for less than a quarter of the price?
Most importantly, the metaverse and all it offers promotes acceptance. Remember the Miriam-Webster definition of “community” as being “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals”? Every day, we see examples of how “various kinds of individuals” in one place can lead to disagreements – even violence. That’s because in “real” life, we are almost always victim to our senses. We’ve evolved to watch out for physical threats at any and all times, whether we are conscious of it or not. This hinders trust and communication.
In the virtual world of the metaverse, physical threats are nonexistent. With the dreamy graphics and streamlined designs, one can be convinced that there are no threats at all. When experiencing the fantastical, gamified reality of the metaverse, especially that of Somnium Space, inhibition dissipates and a childlike sense of awe and innocence is resurrected. Bonding and collaboration become effortless. Fully expressing intent becomes second nature, walls fall down, and business gets done.
It’s not that virtual reality or the metaverse should replace reality, but it can serve as a positive example of how humanity can unify in reality. When distance and physical threats aren’t factors, we remember how to have fun and be fearless, just like when we were kids. With the wisdom of adulthood, the metaverse serves as a new tool of communication that can help us teach and learn different perspectives more quickly and easily. Hopefully, as a result, this helps us replace all too prevalent fear with understanding.
In today’s society, we feel like we’re missing something because we are. Physical threats, political divide, class stratification, environmental entropy, and education, resource, and job inequality are chasms not easily bridged. The faceless communication technology we’ve had up until now has been cold and impersonal, harboring trolling, bullying, and misinformation, thereby furthering division. Perhaps the metaverse can add the humanistic element needed to challenges these issues and help us to be more generous, patient, and gracious with one another – if only because we share a fun-filled, idealistic environment where danger and inequality are more neutralized.
“Community” then becomes less of a desire, and more of a prerequisite to global teamwork, and, as a result, perhaps the key to alleviating our individual pressures and restoring balance within our personal lives. Opportunities to help each other and to be helped then multiply. No longer rogue puzzle pieces, we find our places as valued gears in a well-oiled engine. We play our uniquely important roles and exercise our talents without the pressure to overexert ourselves. Enemies turn into friends, and friends turn into family. With community so extraordinarily facilitated, broader civilization becomes more than a collection of people – it becomes a thriving and cooperative collective where anything is possible. With the technological miracle of the blockchain and the growing metaverse community, anything is not only possible, but within reach.