Meta holidays: ‘Instead of bundling into the car with your family, you tap a button on your VR goggles’ Illustration: Scott Balmer/The Guardian
If you witnessed Mark Zuckerberg’s unveiling of the “Metaverse” this year, you’ll be familiar with his utopian vision: a future in which we abandon our woefully outdated reality in favor of his virtual world. After all, what could be better than surrendering the very concept of observable truth to the man whose service has convinced your aunt that elites want to drink the blood of children?
The Zuckerbergian digital universe isn’t quite ready yet, but with Christmas around the corner, we took an educated guess at what the holidays might look like under the incoming regime.
Facebook gives a glimpse of metaverse, its planned virtual reality world – video
It all begins on a cozy winter’s evening. Instead of bundling into the car with the family, you simply tap a button on your VR goggles. Instantly, you’re transported to a customized digital environment – perhaps somewhere with a Dickensian flourish, such as a Victorian workhouse, or one of the kooky spots featured in Zuck’s demo video, such as the lifeless blackness of the cosmos.
Everyone is there: Aunt Dakota, Uncle Logan, your cousins Edith and Walter, Grandma and Grandpa. And is that Great-great-Uncle Harry? It is! He died last year, but a little thing like that won’t stop his avatar from showing up. It’s programmed with all his favorite anecdotes and jokes – in fact, it’s so lifelike that as the years go by, you’ll forget entirely which relatives are still actually breathing.
Of course, because everyone’s chosen an avatar, there are no familiar faces. So you’ll have to make educated guesses about who’s who as you approach giant T-rexes and smiling robots – don’t want to accidentally get stuck making small talk with weird cousin Andrew, who is either that zombie in the corner or the knife-wielding guy in the hockey mask. On the plus side, no one has aged a day since you last saw them.
It’s been a while, so you’ll need an icebreaker. Just as it was last year, the go-to topic is the plight of the “phizzies” – the new underclass that can’t afford Zuck’s goggles and still lives in the physical world. Your progressive relatives bemoan their plight, while your more callous family members have a good chuckle, wondering what it must be like to be left behind in a world where matter is still a thing.
Soon it will be time for dinner – which is never as filling as it used to be, given that it’s made up of mainly zeroes and ones. But wait, the fabric of reality is tearing over by your stepdad, and … yep, someone’s hacked Christmas again. A pair of alien avatars have appeared out of nowhere and started doing weird sex stuff, which, to be fair, accounts for most of what happens in the Metaverse. Doing your best to avoid stray pulsating tentacles, you push them back into the rift they emerged from, making a mental note to contact Meta’s support staff yet again.
Finally you all sit down for your meal, though before the food will materialize, you’ll of course need to chant the Pledge to Lord Zuckerberg. When it’s complete, a disembodied blue thumbs-up briefly appears over the table and dinner begins. Edith and Walter are late to the table; they’ve been in the real-life bathroom, vomiting from what doctors have termed goggle-derived motion sickness (GDMS). Conversation is, unsurprisingly, dominated by your conspiracy-theorist uncle, who has spent the whole night waiting for JFK Jr to show up – which, in this reality, is not outside the realm of possibility.
After dinner it’s time for entertainment, and it’s the Metaverse, so you’re excited for an appearance by a big star, digitized. It’s Christmas, so how about Mariah Carey? Turns out she’s only available as an NFT, and she costs Z1m (1 million Zuckcoin). You settle for Michael Bublé again. While he belts out Jingle Bells, you begin handing out the presents, bracing for the yearly tantrum when the kids, who legally can spend only 95.3% of their waking hours in the Metaverse, realize their new toys don’t actually exist.
Finally, the evening is over, and people begin spontaneously disappearing as they teleport to their virtual bedrooms. The holidays make you nostalgic, so you decide, for old time’s sake, to pull off the goggles. As your eyes adjust to the physical world, you watch your immediate family stumbling into walls and bumping into each other, their vision blocked by their headsets. It feels like a metaphor for something, but you can’t think what.