Personal Space in the Metaverse

In real life, personal space is important. You don’t want random strangers coming up to you and getting too close. It can feel unnerving and uncomfortable. In a virtual environment, I believe the same is true. VR can be an incredibly immersive experience, and most people feel uncomfortable when other players get to close. Personal space is a safety feature by default, on most popular social VR platforms, including Horizon and VRChat. Most players turn this off. It seems people in VR can feel just as uncomfortable with others as they can in real life.

I don’t like when people are too close. Even if they aren’t doing anything wrong, I still dislike it when people are close to me. I feel as if people don’t take social VR seriously, acting like they aren’t talking to real people. Some people try to be an annoyance on purpose while others don’t see the seriousness of touching someone’s  avatar. Its an immersive experience and I don’t like other people touching me, especially if I don’t know you. I’ve had my share of uncomfortable experiences in VR, though it is only a small portion of my experiences in VR. The majority of my experiences have been very positive.

It should go without saying that you shouldn’t do anything to anyone without consent, regardless if you’re in VR or real life. That being said, there seems to be groups of people that love the interaction and don’t seem to mind being close to others. Some people don’t seem to mind being touched at all. These people  often get in other peoples personal space without realizing they are making someone uncomfortable. This can cause some awkward interactions. I’ve encountered situations like this more than intentional harassment.

Reading articles about harassments in VR, makes me feel as if this is a giant issue. It is an annoyance and it does happen, but there are tools implemented on every popular social VR platform to help players stay safe and be comfortable. One useful tool is blocking people. Blocking is a feature on every notable social platform. If you encounter a player who is intentionally harassing you, block them. There are also personal space tools that keep you from seeing players that get too close to you.

Elaine Karapetian

Elaine Karapetian

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