From this seemingly-endless pandemic to personal issues that plague our lives, it makes sense that we often seek a place and time to forget about life’s challenges. For the most part, that’s perfectly fine and, with moderation, healthy. The intentional detachment and distraction from our daily lives, or escapism, is a natural response to stress. However, our habitual escape has transformed into numbness, and we have ultimately become avoidant to our responsibilities and problems.
Whether it’s scrolling through social media for hours on end or dropping everything to rewatch the same Netflix show, escapism can take on many forms. Acknowledging the ways in which we practice escapism and setting healthy boundaries for ourselves is the first step in snapping back to reality.
Part of using social media as a medium of escapism is the codependency we create along the way. When we spend too much time trying to forget about the ugly truths of the world, we end up defaulting to it instead of facing the issues at hand. TikTok embodies all of the ways we wish to escape from the world: It supplies us with an endless stream of content personalized for our viewing and allows us the space and resources for us to break from the world around us.
According to a study done by the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, “Watching videos of others that they feel emotionally involved [with helps] them escape from their unpleasant reality and this positive mood modification leads them to higher [problematic Instagram use] scores.” This would explain the reason why following and investing time into celebrities and influencers on social media provides us a medium of escapism.
However, the concept of vicariously living through others on a screen is not new. The same idea can be applied to television and movies: using the world created as a way to escape from our own. While this is an inherent part of the watching experience, consistently opting to watch shows and movies instead of facing the challenges of our reality can result in the same addiction as social media.
All the ways in which we escape have become a prison for us. While it may not be as damaging, the addiction and reliance on our modern ways of escapism, social media and television, can be compared to alcohol abuse.
While many justify their escapist behavior with their mental health, dependence on this method of coping can actually lead to worsened mental health. According to Psychologist Lyn Reed, by avoiding our issues, we could be at risk of developing a higher level of depressive symptoms. Additionally, she claims, “Addiction to the internet has shown overuse of such is often linked to loneliness and compulsiveness.”
It is also important to note the other ways escapism can appear in our lives, such as overeating, gaming, and oversleeping. Admittedly, these actions are not inherently detrimental, and a healthy dosage of escapism can be used to destress and refresh. However, we must ask ourselves if the ways in which we escape are simply destressing us or inhibiting our ability to face our responsibilities.
When we become too avoidant, it results in our inability to confront both personal and societal issues, leaving our responsibilities incomplete. Whether it’s a political issue on the news that you don’t have the energy for or an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with your housemate, escaping may seem like a tempting option. However, once escapism becomes the main source of conflict resolution, this addiction can impact not only productivity and relationships but also personal growth.
The first step in breaking away from our escapist behavior is actually recognizing when we are doing it, as it can oftentimes be a subconscious action that goes unnoticed. Once we are able to recognize how we become avoidant, we are able to set boundaries and understand the difference between leisure and detrimental evasion. Being able to deal with and come to terms with the ups and downs of life is a skill that takes some time to learn, but one that becomes more crucial as we get older and more mature.
Trying to escape from the painful and uncomfortable is natural, but those responses signify that we care, we love, and are able to grow. Life is full of challenges and uncomfortable conversations, and if we spend our time trying to escape from them, we miss out on the value of the lessons they teach us.
Art courtesy of Medium.