The 2016 election cycle highlighted a deep division in our country’s psyche. From fake news to the idea of a personal information bubble, social media played a role in altering our reality, fueling our collective ability to move beyond facts into a sort of real time chaos.

Reality is in not what it used to be!

This piece from Jacqueline Schneider uses music as a lense to explore something much deeper, something that’s been building over time into an alternative perception driven by our mobile social habits.

“How Social Media Normalized Mediocrity: Through the Lens of Music”

“The fact that a message or image penetrates your very eyeballs, means it’s getting into your brain which means it’s affecting you whether you realize it or not”

We unintentionally create a new reality around us everyday.

“Social media has disconnected us so much from reality that we digest things about people and organizations before even having a first-hand experience or thinking critically about the information we are being fed”

If virtual reality is supposed to be the next big thing, what is the role of these ecosystems being built by Facebook and Google if we already entering a virtual space everyday?

Are we using virtual reality for empathy or as a response and escape from a “social media reality”?

“After interacting with digital and social media for a large portion of the day, we create our own version of reality which is highly influenced by our feeds.”

Our current state of reality seems to have happened to us. Social media = a sort of passive virtual reality. We innocently check our phones without acknowledging we’re leaving one reality and entering another. We enter the space before we’ve examined the effects. Images in real time feeds can distort the facts and validate views that are shifting faster then our ability to find solid ground.

On the other hand, headset enabled virtual reality is something we’re creating from scratch right now, in a post “social virtual world”. This new wave of VR seems like a more deliberate choice, the promise of the future we choose with bulky headsets and complete immersion, we should know what were getting into? Or is this “choice” yet another illusion?

I believe part of the intent Jacqueline’s article is to convince us to unplug, but the course of humanity so far seems to indicate we will only integrate it more and more.

Is it strange to suggest we need more technology to bring us closer to reality?

What would fake news look like in a fully immersive virtual environment? How about abuse in a virtual environment? We should be cautious not to just bring our existing social media patterns and problems into these new VR ecosystems. To build a new VR ecosystem will require an honest assessment of our current relationship with reality.

This next wave of technology promising a virtual reality is currently in development and under our control, so we do have a chance to reset some ground rules based on what we’ve learned from what I’ve called “social virtual reality”. VR wont be the next big thing without learning from the current virtual world we’ve found ourselves in, and baking in some preventative measures. Maybe we can dial it back, use VR to escape from what we’ve built before. For those that call it an empathy machine, rememebr that was once the promise of the internet itself.