The metaverse: A snapshot of experiences in virtual reality

A small but significant number of adults in Australia are engaging in the metaverse with many of those using haptic technologies to enhance their experience.

The metaverse can be described as a virtual world where users interact with each other in a wholly immersive and interactive computer-generated environment.

An estimated 680,000 adults in Australia may be engaging in the metaverse, with half of those interacting in these environments at least once a month. More than half of those engaging in the metaverse are using haptic technologies to enhance or intensify their experience.

Although engaging in the metaverse can bring benefits, users can also experience a number of online harms. A majority of those who said they engaged in the metaverse had at least one negative experience in that environment.

The most common types of negative experiences identified were being left out by other people, being called offensive names, receiving repeated unwanted messages or contact, being provoked to respond to something said or to start an argument, being challenged about cultural identity, and being sent unwanted inappropriate content. Many of those who had been subjected to these online harms said they had experienced detrimental effects – for example, to their mental or emotional wellbeing.

The findings are based on a series of questions in eSafety’s national online safety survey, which was conducted in November and December 2022. The survey includes responses from over 5,000 adults in Australia about their online lives, the types of technologies they use, the platforms they are accessing, their experiences in the metaverse and the perceived impact on their lives.

Summary of key findings 

Engaging in the metaverse

  • 4% of respondents indicated they had engaged in the metaverse in the last 12 months.
  • 49% of metaverse users said they had entered the metaverse at least once a month in the last 12 months.
  • 61% of metaverse users had utilised some form of haptic technology to enhance their experience.
  • The most popular metaverse games or platforms were Minecraft (44%), Fortnite (40%) and VRChat (37%).

Metaverse users

  • 75% of metaverse users were under 40 years old, 16% were aged 40 to 49 and 7% were aged 50 to 65.
  • 76% of metaverse users were men.

Negative experiences while in metaverse environments

  • 71% of metaverse users reported having at least one negative online experience in the last 12 months.
  • The most common types of experiences included being left out by others (23%), being called offensive names (21%), receiving repeated unwanted messages or contact (16%), being provoked to respond to something said or to start an argument (15%), being challenged about cultural identity (14%), and being sent unwanted inappropriate content (13%).
  • Looking at experiences that are specific to the metaverse or that manifest differently in that environment, 11% had been exposed to a virtual space that was sexually graphic (which may or may not have been negative), 9% had been touched in a way they didn’t like via haptic technology and 6% said someone had created a sexually explicit avatar or image of them to interact with without their consent.

Impacts on users’ health and wellbeing

Of those who had had a negative experience while in the metaverse:

  • 49% said it had a moderate to extreme impact on their mental or emotional wellbeing.
  • 42% said it had a moderate to extreme impact on their perception of technology or the internet.
  • 41% said it had a moderate to extreme impact on their normal online behaviours or routines.