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NOTEBOOK – ONE GOOD READ: How will your avatar affect your real-world behavior?


Can you remember when there weren’t computers? For many of us what is now part of our daily lives, both at work and at home, once seemed like science fiction. Now we’re taking it to a whole new level with a vision outlined last week by Mark Zuckerberg when he announced the changing of the name of Facebook’s parent company to Meta, and the metaverse he wants to create. His plan is to invest billions of dollars to create a virtual world that would allow a limitless number of users to work, play, learn and buy. With that thought in mind, it might be useful to look at answers found by Stanford University researchers in 2007 when they asked how someone’s avatar may affect their real-world behavior. In this story, the Washington Post explains that the researchers found that how someone uses their avatar in the digital world shapes their behavior in the real one. According to those researchers, adopting a character digitally can essentially alter someone’s personality, a phenomenon known as the Proteus effect. As you could imagine, the metaverse envisioned by Zuckerberg and others who have talked about it for years has been met with some skepticism, with some suggesting it would intensify trends and open new opportunities, but could also create a whole new world of problems. “When it comes to the metaverse, the headline should be ‘Haters gonna hate,’” said Rabindra Ratan, an associate professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University who has researched wide-scale virtual interconnectedness. “The reality is that there are all kinds of reasons to be optimistic about this world,” but he also added: “There will be badness. I just think it will be a new kind of badness.”

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