According to data from Pew Research Center, about 40% of Americans have experienced some form of cyberbullying. With social media providing not just the means to harass others, but also the anonymity of doing so without consequence, cyberbullying as a problem is becoming more and more rampant. Only about 18% of the general public believe that social media companies are handling the problem correctly.

How does this translate to the Metaverse?

Why Metaverse Cyberbullying Could Be a Problem

does metaverse cyberbullying exist

With the Metaverse being a virtual reality world where avatars can do anything they want – from attending meetings or the gym to, you guessed it, Metaverse Cyberbullying. There is virtually no difference between what you can do in the Metaverse versus what you can do in real life – except perhaps, you can go further than you would be able to in the Metaverse.

This means that harassment and bullying can become an even bigger problem than it is in the real world. Harassment and assaults are already a problem on social media, as well as in virtual reality games, and by virtue of being virtual, it becomes much more difficult to address these issues. There are also very few mechanisms in place to report such behavior. 

With the Metaverse being linked to your real-world senses, this issue becomes a much scarier one when you consider that two people have already reported cases of sexual assault in the Metaverse – before it has even been released to the public!

What Meta is Doing About Safety Concerns 

When such issues first came up, Meta rolled out a minimum distance policy between users’ avatars. This setting allows users to determine how close you want to allow other users to come to you. The setting is called the ‘Personal Boundary’, and has three options: 

  • A default setting for non-friends, where a 4-foot distance is kept between your avatar and that of someone you’re not friends with.
  • A Personal Boundary of 4 feet for everyone, regardless of whether they’re friends with you or not. 
  • The Personal Boundary of 4 feet being kept off, but a smaller default one still kept in place to avoid any unwanted interactions. 

Of course, to have fun with your friends, you need to have some kind of closeness – if your Personal Boundary is kept on, you won’t be able to high five or fist-bump your friends, nor can you take selfies with them. 

However, the Personal Boundary does not take into account things like verbal harassment, stalking, threats, etc. 

As of now, Meta has not made any specific attempts at minimizing such forms of cyberbullying. On that note, neither has Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media company. 

However, with social media being such a large part of our lives now, it is up to these companies to resolve such problems. The possibility of eliminating cyberbullying and trolling remains low, however. Unfortunately, to some extent, these platforms are just reflective of the people that use it, rather than a problem that stems specifically from social media.