Written by: Jovielle Bruto (22-A2), Yam Lok Sum (22-A1)
Designed by: Lim Sher Min (23-E1)
What is escapism?
Have you ever found yourself scrolling mindlessly through social media? Perhaps you pick up a book, aiming to bury yourself in a magical world, where fae and wizards are more common than your average salaryman. Or maybe, you decide to watch a show and immerse yourself in the perspective of daring policemen navigating dire situations.
Such actions can be seen as a form of escapism – where one wishes to “escape” their real-world struggles or worries, trading them in for a more favourable and invented world instead.
During global disasters, the most current of which is the Covid-19 pandemic, people seek an alternative to their strife-ridden lives. Hence, escapism as a phenomenon has become more prevalent.
Many find comfort in invented worlds, using them to alleviate their stresses and discontentment. However, as reported by Andrew Evans in his book, “This Virtual Life”, there is a line between productive and harmful escapism.
Why do we engage in escapism?
Escapism is a way of mental separation from unpleasant or boring aspects of life which are deemed as undesirable by human nature. It serves to occupy oneself and is a distraction from persistent feelings of depression or general sadness. Common forms of escapism include daydreaming, reading a book, and listening to music. Sounds familiar? These are subconscious actions that we engage in daily.
The History of Escapism
This phenomenon goes way back to the 1930s, when escapism was a common concept that arose from the Great Depression. High unemployment rates and hence lack of income caused distress for countless households who struggled to get by during this challenging period. With that being said, many subconsciously turned to escapism to literally “escape” from all their problems and undesirable feelings.
Despite the positive effects of escapism, people can become mentally ill from the addictiveness. The constant desire to divert from reality will worsen the situation as no solutions to solve the issue will surface.
Effects of escapism
As previously stated, escapism can be a double-edged sword. Naturally, we must learn to wield this tool to our benefit.
Productive escapism is a healthy way to protect one’s emotional and mental stability as it offers various benefits.
1. Reduces stress
When immersing yourself in a new world, you can rid your mind of any stressors. Hence, it provides you with an opportunity to recalibrate and refresh yourself, ensuring that you are more capable of facing any upcoming challenges in life.
2. Outlet for creativity
By virtue of escapism being a naturally creative process, engaging in escapism develops one’s imagination. Furthermore, activities like reading and art can inspire others, leading to greater happiness and fulfillment.
However, escapism is ultimately rooted in avoidance. Naturally, if one loses sight of themselves in the process of escaping, it can be disastrous to one’s holistic well-being.
If one relies too heavily on escapism, it could cause you to withdraw from the real world. One may end up shirking their duties as a friend or colleague, prioritising their preferred method of escapism instead of spending time with the real people who matter. This may lead to the neglect of various aspects of real life, such as work and relationships.
Escapism is an alluring alternative to harsh realities. Thus, people can become addicted to escapism, finding difficulty reconnecting with the real world and finding meaning in it. For instance, internet addiction as a form of escapism can be seen as more dangerous than its predecessors due to the targeted nature of algorithms. These algorithms enable the curation of an ideal world only seen through our phones, enhancing the effects of internet addiction.
Overall, escapism can be seen as a safe haven from the stresses of the real world, even acting as a positive driving force in our lives. Nonetheless, we must be conscious of our usage of such methods to ensure a balance between escapism and managing our real life relationships and duties.