I Went on a First Date in the Burning Man Metaverse
5 min read | Mar 2022

I Went on a First Date in the Burning Man Metaverse

Finding a life partner in a virtual universe could soon be a new reality.

Red Beetroot / Millennial / Progressive / Filmmaker

My avatar tapped its foot patiently. My date was late. Am I at the right place? Is this the right metaverse?

I was a tall, handsome Black man—no shirt, printed three-quarter length spandex tights, desert boots, a cowboy hat and sunglasses, even though it was night. “How the fuck did I end up here?” I asked myself. I’m not a computer nerd; I don’t play video games. I don’t even watch that much TV. Yet there I was, on a virtual date in the Burning Man metaverse, aptly named “Multiverse.”

Wind back the clock six months on Earth metaverse. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was single and alone in my Brooklyn apartment. I started talking to an old friend; we comforted each other through isolation with marathon six-hour FaceTime sessions. Something was kindling between us, but without the physical connection to gauge whether there was chemistry, it was just all talk. It was hard to tell if she was just bored and I was balls-deep in the friend zone. When restrictions started to loosen, she decided to stay in her home country, leaving the Pacific Ocean between us. I was desperate to know: Was this real? The difficult question with online dating is when and how do you make first contact? How do you escalate from digital banter to IRL?

“”

We Smashed Avatars Together for Our First Kiss

We are both softcore Burners. For me, the pandemic became real when Burning Man was canceled. If anyone could pull off a COVID-19 miracle, it was a bunch of wealthy, creative-obsessed Burning Man people stuck inside for six months. We talked excitedly about what they might create. And just weeks before Burning Man announced it was on, albeit virtually, I bit the bullet and asked her on a virtual date. 

“You mean like a date date?” she replied.

 “Yeah, like a date date.”

 “OK, sure, not like I’ll be doing anything better.” 

That sounds like friend zone chat, I thought to myself.

If there was a credo for lockdown, it might as well be, “OK, sure, not like I’ll be doing anything better,” and during those times, going on a virtual date to Burning Man was a pretty exciting prospect. When she finally arrived, 30 minutes late due to a connection issue, her avatar looked hot as hell. We cruised around the virtual playa on our hoverboards. We stopped to admire virtual art; we interacted with other avatars; and we danced to our favorite DJs. Four hours passed like it was no time at all. At one point, we stumbled upon a piece of art in the deep playa. I hovered my avatar close to hers, heart racing and said, “So, um, this is the point in a date where I would usually ask to kiss you.”

“Well, just do it,” she replied. 

In the most unromantic first kiss ever, we smashed our avatars together. And with the sexual frustration akin to watching porn with dial-up internet, I successfully made it to the virtual first base hurdle that can torment nice guys in the friend zone for years.

Eventually, It Will Be Hard to Distinguish the Real World From the Metaverse

Fast-forward 12 months Earth-time to 2021. Mark Zuckerberg presents a 77-minute keynote explaining that Facebook is now Meta. The summary of this presentation? Facebook is going all in on the metaverse. Why is this important? If you use Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp (3.5 billion people do daily), you will be subtly drawn into the metaverse. At first, it will be slow, but before you know it, you’ll be participating in a virtual orgy at Burning Man from the comfort of your dust-free couch. Whether you like it or not, the metaverse is coming and you’ll be coming in the metaverse. We will be rendered choiceless but to create sexy avatars and join the fun. 

The thing about the metaverse which will be fundamentally different from planet Earth is that you will not be confined to your meat suit we call a body. You’ll be able to teleport anywhere you can imagine. You’ll be able to create worlds so vastly different to the one you were programmed into. You’ll work and play virtually. You will spend more of your waking life in the metaverse than on Earth. Think I’m exaggerating? Go look at your screen time on your phone. You’re already living in an early metaverse—just a really shit version. 

The whole Meta presentation sent me down a rabbit hole of thoughts. The people who say The Matrix is a documentary just added a little more ammunition to their argument. The world as we know it is colliding with virtual worlds at a quicker rate than ever. Metaverses are popping up all over the place, like Wilder World, built by artists and living on the blockchain. We will build millions of metaverses, and eventually, these worlds will become so lifelike, it will be hard to distinguish between the real and the meta. Which makes you think, are we in one right now? The odds that we are in the genesis metaverse are one in a million. But it sure feels real.

Let’s imagine for a second (or at least for the rest of this article) that we are in a virtual world. You are the main player. The game is your life and you have one life. I’m here to tell you that what you experience is not really reality—it’s your reality, but it’s not the reality. In fact, no one knows the real reality because you are only as informed as to your point of view.

When you and your friend both see the same thing, you might each experience it differently. If this world is virtual and your experiences are fundamentally different from the person next to you, what is truth?

“”

In the Metaverse, You Control Your Destiny 

The truth is, there is no truth. No certainty. What one person sees, hears, tastes, touches or smells can be so vastly different to whatever you experience. So what’s the point of arguing? What’s the point of being right or wrong? Why can’t everyone be right?

When you are born, your consciousness springs to life. Earth is your metaverse. As you develop, your world is shaped by your early experiences, your family and your environment. Into adolescence, you start to find your own way, you start to discover who you are, but your world is largely still defined by your early years. A lot of people never get out of that worldview, and they pass that view on to their children and the metaverse becomes more concrete. But here is the exciting part: It’s your metaverse and you can change it. You get to decide how you view your world.

Once you start creating your own reality, you start attracting other people doing the same. Dreamers, doers, creatives and visionaries. There's a fair chance if you’re reading this right now, you are in the fine cohort of people taking control of your own universe and, ultimately, your own destiny. Who knows? The first time you kiss your future life partner might be on a virtual dusty date. It happened to my spandex-wearing avatar, and it can happen to you. 

Creating your own reality comes with caveats. Don’t hurt people; don’t be mean; and don’t be an asshole. But if you do choose that direction, know that you will attract other people just like you, and that’s a pretty shitty metaverse to hang out in.

I admire people who choose their own way, people who are running their own race. The people who know there is no finish line are playing infinite games, which we can all win and everyone can be right. We don’t need to be the way we are formed or conform to the environment we were brought up in. It’s one big video game where no one gets out alive. Enjoy the ride and be nice to people on the internet and IRL.

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