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Virtual reality is growing in popularity by the minute. With its continuous integration into the lives of the consumer and upwards of approximately 230 companies focusing their efforts on VR, the question of what this new technology will mean in the lives of many is yet unknown. And while many are anticipating the full-integration of VR into everyday life, some are skeptical of the impact it will have on ‘normal life.’ Concern is also raised as to the possible increase it may have on social seclusion, something many blame less comprehensive forms of social networks for already.

Going forward, it’s important we continue the dialogue on VR and human interaction. To start this conversation on my end, I’d like to explore the possible impact VR could have on human relationships.

A report published in the City Observatory by economist Joe Cortright has recently concluded that, over the last 40 years, humans have become increasingly less social. It’s no surprise, then, that some are skeptical of the effects VR could have on our already sobering social skills. By nature, people are communal creatures. But what happens when we begin to find that sense of community via platforms that mimic the flesh and blood thing? Currently, the question goes unanswered, but the possible resounding negatives are voiced by critics who are more than mere fear-mongers of a perceived tech-takeover akin to that of the movie I, Robot.

In Japan, for instance, relationships for people in their mid-30s are at an all-time low, as many men are opting for relationships with 2d girls over their human counterparts. It’s true, escapism has existed for as long as humans have had a location, substance, or medium to escape to, but the stimulus offered via artificial relationships, adventures, and experiences are perhaps more mentally orgasmic than ever before. The result? A future where human relationships are traded in for more dramatic and sensory titillating experiences is not out of the question, and the negative impact that that form of escapism could have on human interaction is again, untold.

Advocacy for the benefits of technological advances should not be understated, as the integration of artificial intelligence into the sectors of finance, real estate, and healthcare are truly beneficial to many. But the resounding negative impact that social media has had on the lives of the general population is something empirically evident. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that social media is not intrinsically harmful to human interaction, in fact, one can easily make an argument for the inverse. But our collective inability to monitor and establish personal and edifying relationships with these social platforms provides, I would argue, the direct correlation as to why humans have become less social over the past 40 years, and why many are so hesitant to embrace VR, despite its perceived benefits.