Avatars, our new digital identity?
January 2023

By Emily Ryan

It’s no secret Meta is already trying to claim its place as top dog in the Metaverse. This digital world sounds like it comes from another universe, and it seems lightyears away before we touch down on new digital soil, right?… Well, we’re in fact closer than you might think. This is increasingly clear with the development of our digital doppelgangers also known as ‘avatars’. The parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp is making sure Meta avatars are the first ones we create.

An Avatar is a digital representation of a user. This digital identity differs from person to person and can either be static or animated. Think Snapchat’s Bitmoji. However, a big difference here will be flexibility. While some avatars are restricted to only a single platform, a Metaverse avatar will be able to cross through different experiences and different Metaverses. So whatever avatar you create, they will easily carry over to different virtual worlds you may visit. The avatar then becomes your identity in the Metaverse.

In 2022 we saw Meta commit to the development of these VR digital characters to make them more expressive, more customisable, and more diverse. This year, avatars have taken a walk over from VR and have entered our social media. Meta has rolled the feature out to Facebook and Messenger – plus Instagram Stories and DMs. Earlier this week Meta also launched Instagram’s new ‘Dynamic Profiles’ which allows users to design a Meta character straight from Instagram and add it straight to your profile. When a user visits your account, your Meta avatar will pop up in the display picture.

Although this seems like just a fun new feature to Instagram, and a cool way to interact with friends through messenger, an avatar in the Metaverse is more than just a user’s created face. It most essentially becomes that user’s entire manifestation in the Metaverse. Therefore, whatever actions the avatar undertakes are directly driven by the user themselves. So apart from just playing a few games, all types of other activities (digital bank meetings and medical appointments anyone?) will also be reflected onto the avatar and therefore the user.

This is all a bit of a scary thought when you put it like that. But essentially, Meta is adding the fun characters on socials to get us used to interacting with avatars. This is cleverly warming us up for the transition into the Metaverse whilst it’s still in its early stages. It’s giving Black Mirror, but have we all already made our characters? Absolutely.

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