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The Impersonalities of Chat VR: Pros and Cons
Chat-based VR is impersonal. With the currently available levels of technology
for this home-based social VR type, it has to be. Such systems are very good
for communication, but if you try to go much beyond communication, into full-blown
social interaction, dating, lifestyle, and well, life, you run into a problem.
This is not to say these spaces dehumanise, or lessen the value of an individual.
Because they are direct, mind-to-mind spaces, they actually enhance the individual,
bringing out the full flavour of the personality.
Instead they impersonalise, because all you can do right now is communicate.
There is no holding, no cuddling, no massaging, and little shared interaction,
except at an abstract level.
There are several clearly defined Pros to them however.
1. They connect people
These virtual chat spaces allow people to meet and mingle, who otherwise
have no common social, economic, or location based common ground. All over
the map, from all walks of life and social circles come together in these
spaces, and find, or build common ground.
Such spaces have no respect for class or creed, and, as a result, form unlikely,
yet strong relationships between disparate individuals.
2. They allow a life where there was none
To give a life, a presence in society to those who otherwise have none, is
one of the most powerful aspects. Individuals living life in motorised wheelchairs,
stroke victims who cannot walk nor talk properly, can interact on a level
playing field. There is no judgement about a pre-existing medical condition,
because it does not have to exist there.
Instead of being shunned by outside society, and treated incredibly poorly
-which still occurs often, despite strict laws against it in many countries
- they can hold a place of pride, based purely on their cognitive abilities,
and not their physical shell.
3. Glimpses into Alternate Lifestyles
These spaces allow micro-worlds to be constructed, under any ideal known
to man or beast. Great, towering cities of slim and majestic towers; sprawling
rustic villages in a land technology forgot; otherworldly loops and spirals,
defying gravity to walk upon.
More than the views, they offer places where the very edges of showcase on
a completely different way of living life, to the one society's norms allow,
are possible. After all, no fire escapes and minimum sanitation requirements
are necessary in the virtual.
4. A Perfect Visage
Never diminishing, never ageing, removing all those aspects you hate. Your
visage, your appearance in a virtual chat space is, as you would prefer for
it to be, as you would long for it to be. Perfect for those with lupus, body
dymorphia, or any other disability that is not actually crippling to physical
function most of the time, yet has a devastating impact on social function.
Genetic drifts, intergender individuals, and skin cancer survivors. The severely
battle-disfigured and still more, even as simple as an older person trying
desperately to recapture their youth.
All benefit in these spaces, from a perceived form that is exactly what their
mind most desires. They are seen as they are, not as their shells force them
5. BO? What BO?
Everyone has off days, tummy aches, period pain, cold, flu, laryngitis. It
is supremely embarrassing in the physical world if there are little problems,
that get in the way. A cold is the gift that just keeps giving, a nightmare
if you just gave it to the one you love.
Some individuals have flatulence problems that get in the way of social interaction,
others are allergic to cigarette smoke, or other severe allergies. A few have
personal hygiene control problems, which make it difficult for people to stand
In such virtual spaces, all these issues disappear, replaced with pure mind-to-mind.
No one cares if that bran and prune juice breakfast just came back to bite
you, as you are the only one who can smell it.
The pros of these chat-based virtual reality spaces are truly wonderful things.
There are additional pros to the ones above, but they require ever-increasing
additional hardware requirements which are not mainstream at time of writing,
and so have been discounted.
Just as there are significant pros to these impersonal worlds, so there are
significant cons. Whether the good outnumbers the bad, depends on individual
circumstances, but all are affected, in one way or another.
1. I jus' wanna touch you
Touching. Feeling, the whole area of haptics, and telehaptics. Yes, it is
possible in virtual environments, but not at the home level. It requires specialised
and pricey technology, which is not very accurate yet.
When you get to know someone well, via one of these spaces, there is the
desire to comfort them when things go bad, congratulate them when things are
going well. To hold hands, dry tears, massage shoulders, or other, more intimate
If you are separated by some 4,000 miles at the time, and the only way it
is possible to be together is via the virtual space, this presents a bit of
Likewise for those just getting fed up of the mad world outside their homes,
the moron-run world, in which such people, prefer their own kind. An increasing
number of disillusioned people spend their time in semi-hermatic isolation,
not through choice, but simply to preserve sanity. Yet, when they turn to
virtual spaces, these too, disappoint, as, whilst they meet their ilk within,
beyond communication, there is not much further things can go.
2. More power Baby! More, More!
Power. The raw processing power and storage space required. It is an ever-increasing,
never slackening demand. As the spaces struggle to become a little more interpersonal,
shedding some of the limitations, they demand ever increasing amounts of sheer
power from the computer systems used to access them, often stranding those
who canill-afford to upgrade, without access to their new families.
3 Disappearance, without Trace
The greatest hazard for interpersonal relationships in such spaces, is the
ability to disappear without trace. If something happens to the computer system
of a long-distance loved one, they are gone from your grasp.
If the worst comes to the worse, and they are killed, in many instances,
the other party will never know.
This is perhaps the greatest curse of the Impersonality of Chat VR.