Companies that are throwing billions of dollars at investing in alternative or augmented reality are finding it tough to understand who actually wants to use the product.
A combination of augmented and virtual reality and video through which users move with avatars that represent them, the metaverse is still a very broad term that many are calling the next generation of the internet.
As the metaverse grows in popularity, many questions remain on how companies that try to draw users in (everyone from Adidas ADDDF to Chipotle CMG and HSBC HBCYF is currently dabbling in it) will be able to ensure the safety of groups particularly prone to harassment.
Safety In The Metaverse Is A Big Concern For Women
A Morning Consult survey of 4420 adults found that 46% of men were interested or very interested in entering the metaverse while only 28% of women felt the same way.
Non-binary and gender-diverse people were not represented in the study.
The reasons, of course, are much more complicated than old stereotypes of the "men just like tech things more" nature.
With existing social media largely failing to curb gender-based threats and harassment on their platforms, it can stand to reason that it will remain a problem in future iterations of the internet
Charlie Bell, Microsoft MSFT's new executive vice president of security, compliance, identity and management, once wrote a blog post saying that this community has "one chance at the start of this era to establish specific, core security principles that foster trust and peace of mind for metaverse experiences."
The survey found that 70% of women consider personal safety in the metaverse to be either a major or minor concern while 73% are worried about online abuse.
A further 64% are worried about sexual harassment.
When looked at through racial lines, around half of Black and Hispanic survey respondents said that they were either somewhat or very interested about the prospect of entering the metaverse.
Those communities traditionally have been more bullish on crypto and likely to use it as a way to circumvent a systemically racist traditionally banking system, and to send money homes to foreign countries.
For Caucasian/White respondents, that number was only at 34%.
Many Have Not Heard Of The Metaverse At All
The wider trend, however, is that the metaverse is still a very abstract concept for many Americans — 39% of respondents have not heard anything at all about it.
There is currently debate on whether the concept will go the way of Google Glass — a wearable computer that the company launched in 2013 but ultimately failed to take off — or will get as big as the internet did in the 1990s and early 2000s.
But as Meta undefined is currently on an aggressive push to promote the concept to everyday people, awareness is also growing.
According to numbers from Pew Research Center, 41% of American adults have experienced some form of online harassment.
"Can you be assaulted in the metaverse? Can your avatar be assaulted? I think the answer is probably yes, but what does that look like in terms of the law?" Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) said in a speech at the State of the Net conference in Washington on Feb. 28.
"We're going to have a whole range of those kinds of conversations."