Virtual Community — Revolution of Social Media

Humans are social animals, and we need regular socializing to keep ourselves in peak health and energy. We have already known that social isolation may cause severe mental and physical healthy issues, and we are struggling year by year to alleviate this social phenomenon in this digital era. Social media, as one of the greatest products of this time, take the responsibility of helping build connection among people, significantly accelerating speed of information exchange. Benefiting from social media, our lives are full of texts, photos and videos. However, the fast developing technology somehow aggravates people’s feeling of loneliness. The reason is that those curated contents people post on social media implicitly put pressure on people who are not satisfied with their lives, especially those with self-abasement. Furthermore, social media platforms are weak on detecting fake news and frauds, and many illegal dealings made every day are hard to trace. A revolution is gradually emerging out to substitute social media.

Along with the development of VR technology and ecologically simulated reality technology, it gives us a chance to build a synchronous virtual community that can be logged in anytime using wearable devices. VR device acts as a key role in the virtual community because it ensures the feeling of first person perspective and synchronous interaction. Facebook has already started to make this idea come true, which is called Facebook Horizon. Another famous platform is XRSPACE — an end to and social VR platform consisting of hardware, software, content and services. A virtual community is not just a platform for social activities, it is a small intact society in a virtual world that has simulated reality. A virtual community contains not only game play matches, but also has schools, hospitals, police offices, malls, and many other organizations and institutions. Every account corresponds to a real person so that illegal activities can be traced by others who are police officers in the community. People are allowed to make money in virtual community but must be under restrictions of law in it. Most of the commercial and social activities can be implanted in virtual community but in a different way. Just like paying movie ticket on Youtube, in virtual community people can go to virtual cinema to watch movies. Basically, virtual community can provide a platform similar to reality except feelings of touching and tasting, which I believe can be overcome in the future.

Considering that building a very big virtual world is technically impossible, many virtual communities can be built one by one. Everybody can have contacts in other community and if there are 80% people in two communities connected, those two communities will merge together, just like two bubbles.

The interface of virtual community is similar to XRSPACE as the picture shows above. It has three ways to connect with your friends who are also in virtual community. You can “call” your contacts in other community, teleport to them or just “walk” to them. The reason why don’t teleport to contacts in other community is because it will take long time to load and render for getting in when using teleport. “calling” is an easier way to talk if you have a few words. For strangers in the same community, you can just “walk” to them to start a conversation and then build connection.

Of course many ethical issues will emerge if the community is built. For example, every activity in virtual community is digital and can be recorded. Data privacy must be fully protected otherwise data leaking may cause disaster. Besides, people may get addicted to such a virtual environment and are not willing to back to reality. But it provides a future vision for revolution of social media.

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Social media platforms have become crucial spaces for expression and information. This publication covers students’ perspectives on the theories driving social media use, ethics in engaging with this data, and analytics for extracting insights.

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Francis Zhang

Francis Zhang

Student

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