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Woster: Missing out on the Metaverse? Me, too.

No, I don’t know what the metaverse is. I’m not sure how to pronounce it.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
We are part of The Trust Project.

I recently received an unsolicited email asking if I knew what the metaverse is.

I took the message to mean I should know, but I didn’t have a clue. I felt the way I did in at the start of my first piano lesson when Miss Willrodt asked if I could put my index finger on the middle C key.

“Wait,’’ I thought. “It’s my first lesson. What kind of question is that?’’

I wanted to give her a smart-aleck answer, something like, “If I knew stuff like that, why would I be coming here for lessons?’’ I was a shy boy, a little backward, just starting third grade. Even so, I knew better than to open my mouth. I sat on the hard piano bench beside Miss Willrodt and stared at the keyboard until she took my hand and placed my index finger firmly on one of the keys.

Because I have been a reporter for a long time, and because I continue to write columns for the Mitchell Republic, I get a fair number of unsolicited emails. Some companies want me to write stories about their new products — a car, a wonder drug or a survey showing that people should buy whatever the company wants to sell. Most of the time, I scan the messages and delete them. What they want to sell, I’m not in the market to buy.

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The metaverse, though, intrigued me. It sounds important. Whisper it to yourself. “Meta-verse.’’ It’s something cutting edge, for sure. It sounds like a thing the astronauts living on the space station might read in their spare time as they lounged around in their suits made of space-age polymers. (I have never understood what a polymer is, either. It sounds important, though.)

No, I don’t know what the metaverse is. I’m not sure how to pronounce it. I have heard of Meta, which is the new name for Facebook. I know about Facebook. I was surprised when its name changed. At the time, I tried to figure out why Mark Zuckerberg, who apparently created Facebook, wanted to change the name. Here is what I learned online:

“The name was chosen to echo the key product that Zuckerberg hopes Facebook — now Meta — will be represented by: the metaverse, the name for a shared online 3D virtual space that a number of companies are interested in creating as a sort of future version of the internet.’’

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As things were, once we had paychecks in hand, we carved out money for rent, groceries, the laundromat and the Sunday collection plate.

Now, see, I don’t understand any of that. It makes me feel like I did when Miss Willrodt told me to find middle C on her piano.

I didn’t think of the word metaverse again until I got that unsolicited email the other day. That’s when I discovered I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. The email said a new study showed nearly 40 percent of the people are not familiar with the metaverse. Not only that, they have no exposure to it. My first question was, if I am not familiar with something, how in the world can I know if I have had any exposure to it?

Another 17 percent in the survey are familiar with the metaverse but don’t like it. The rest of the people surveyed, 43 percent, know what the metaverse is “and actually like it.’’

The message defined metaverse as “an iteration of the Internet as a single, universal and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality and sometimes augmented reality headsets.’’ That makes no sense at all to me.

I have been skeptical of virtually every new thing in technology. I didn’t think much of laptops until I saw how easy they made it to write and send a story from a remote location instead of dictating it over a pay phone. I laughed at cell phones, until I realized how handy they could be for my work and personal communications.

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I am going to study the metaverse a bit. If I can find it has some benefit for me, I’m all in. At my age, it may be too late for that. But I should at least know if I like it, in case someone asks.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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