In recent months, Zuckerberg’s Instagram feed has grown sleekly professionalized. He appears as a sportsman practiced in elite hobbies: foiling, fencing, rowing, spear throwing. In an Instagram video posted on the 4th of July, he cuts through the water on a hydrofoil, hoisting an American flag to the tune of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” This summer, paparazzi captured Zuckerberg in bizarre leisure scenes: heading into the jungle to hunt boar with a posse of friends, wearing tactical gear and knit sneakers; surfing in the ocean, his face covered in opaque white sunscreen like some kind of tropical mime. Recently he posted a series of videos shot through Facebook’s new smart glasses, inviting the viewer to see through his eyes as he pilots a boat or lunges in a backyard fencing match. Now, in his keynote presentation, Zuckerberg becomes our avatar for experiencing the whole metaverse.
The video begins in a home, presumably Zuckerberg’s own. Stock music thrums as he lopes through a beige expanse punctuated with knotty driftwood, ceramic vessels and fossilized sea urchins. When he beckons us into the metaverse (really, simulated images of a virtual reality product that does not exist), his living room dissolves into a grid, and a computerized fantasy version of his home appears. It features several globes, a bonsai growing from an urn and a row of costumes — a Spartan, an astronaut. Vast windows overlook the kind of nature images used in screen savers that come preloaded onto a computer: tropical islands on one side, snow-capped mountains on the other.
The most conspicuous item in Zuckerberg’s fantasy home is a slim television mounted to the wall. “You can do anything you can imagine,” Zuckerberg says. “You will experience the world with ever-greater richness,” he promises. And yet mostly he foresees us consuming content in ever more elaborately antisocial ways.
He stages a virtual concert followed by a virtual after-party featuring virtual swag, all of which may be experienced from a slackened position on a living room couch. In his keynote monologue, he speaks reverently of the “virtual goods” that we will treasure in the metaverse, holding them close as we trudge from app to app. He refers incessantly to “experiences,” an idea that has become a buzzword signaling the commodification of life itself.
Understand the Facebook Papers
A tech giant in trouble. The leak of internal documents by a former Facebook employee has provided an intimate look at the operations of the secretive social media company and renewed calls for better regulations of the company’s wide reach into the lives of its users.
And yet the aesthetics of the metaverse, with its ghastly translucent holograms, evoke the specter of death. Its schedule of activities reads like an advertisement for a virtual retirement community where isolated millennials can live out their final days, gazing at what Zuckerberg calls “a view of whatever you find most beautiful” as advertisers conceive of new ways to drill advertisements directly into their skulls.