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Parmy Olson

It’s Awkward Being a Woman in the Metaverse

Meeting people in virtual reality was fun but messier than Mark Zuckerberg’s vision. Also beware the foul-mouthed kids and the griefers.

Hanging out in the metaverse.

Hanging out in the metaverse.

Photographer: Parmy Olson

Mark Zuckerberg has said the “metaverse” is where we’ll connect with family and friends. The chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc. (a.k.a. Facebook) is betting that we will express ourselves “in new, joyful, completely immersive ways.” He’s bet the future of his company on it.

Over the course of two weeks, I ventured into his virtual platform and others. I put on an Oculus Quest 2 on loan from Meta and mingled with people at an array of virtual locations including a concert, a church service, a conference and a speed-dating event. I found that his vision was only part of the story. Connecting with people in virtual reality is fun and exciting, but it’s also intense, tiring and often awkward. Going in as a woman was also deeply uncomfortable at times.