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What I have observed in the information era is the exponential increase of artificial escapism. By this I mean distracting yourself from reality with non-realistic Books, TV, Music, Movies, Videogames etc. Escapism would also include things like "LARPing" or roleplaying and similar things. While I don't think escapism is a bad thing (In fact I think it is critical in maintaining a healthy mind), I do think that too much of it can be very bad.

With the advent and growing interest in virtual reality, I have become a little more concerned about people spending more time out of reality than in reality.

I think that many social problems that are occurring today are related to this. Anti-social behavior and mental health issues to name two.

Are there any philosophers who talk about this? Is escapism growing? Is more escapism bad? What are the effects of over-escapism? How can we remedy this?

Perhaps this is a more sociological geared question, but I think it has philosophical implications.

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  • Yes, IMO the "measure" of the level of escapism of a society is more a sociological task. May 11, 2018 at 7:57
  • I'm not sure escapism is increasing or just taking a more obvious, effective and unhealthy form. Either way it's all a bit frightening. it seems to be a philosophical issue since it is up to philosophy (or our thinking about philosophy) to determine what we mean by 'reality' and thus allow us to decide what is escapism and what isn't. .
    – user20253
    May 11, 2018 at 12:02
  • "Some again, the most sound, perhaps, in judgment, as they were also the most harsh in temper, of all, affirmed that there was no medicine for the disease superior or equal in efficacv to flight... " This was a double escape...an escape to the countryside, and an escape through telling stories to each other. A physical and mental escape. G. Boccaccio, Decameron sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/boccacio2.asp
    – Gordon
    May 11, 2018 at 12:58
  • Although I share your concern, what does this have to do with philosophy? This seems like more of a question for psychology, sociology, or cultural studies.
    – Chelonian
    May 11, 2018 at 13:25
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    @Gordon Thanks, but that did not convince me that the OP's question--which is really about harm and concern over escapism--is a matter of philosophy. In fact, the self-deception coverage I read from your links didn't really seem like escapism, in which we clearly aren't deceiving ourselves (unless we are truly losing our mind and believing in D&D or whatever).
    – Chelonian
    May 11, 2018 at 13:55

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At least with respect to the technological distractions you mentioned, there are numerous philosophers who have argued that, indeed, it is a damaging influence. Consider Heidegger -- the essence of technology is a way of being that alienates us from the essence Being, prevents us from entering into a free relationship to it, on account of enframing, standing-in-reserve, and all that jazz.

Wendell Barry is another thinker concerned with this question. His Rule #9 concerning standards for technological innovation is: "it should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships." If distraction is a form of replacement or disruption, then I think Barry would find all of what you mentioned suspect.

There are, however, other (more contemporary, usually) thinkers who argue that, instead of freaking out over the technological distractability (which is often, though not always, bound up with 'games' of varying kinds) that seems to define our modern age, we should exploit it, by putting that tendency to good use.

I can assure you that reading, answering, and commenting on questions posted to Phil SE is, for me anyway, a technological form of escapism. I am answering this question instead of doing things I ought to be doing, using your valid question as a pretext for escaping my 'real' responsibilities, as it were.

The interesting question is if I would consider this a form of escapism if we were discussing this in an 'analogue' medium, i.e. in-person, face-to-face. Does the medium make spending time in this way any more or less escapist in nature?

I suspect that, from a philosophical perspective, questions of escapism boil down to axiological concerns: I'm engaging in philosophical discourse at the moment instead of engaging in wealth-getting activities. Which is the 'rightest' way for me to spend my time? Can it only be considered escapism if you prefer one activity relative to the other?

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  • I am so glad you used the word "axiology". I enjoyed this book very much which I checked out years ago from the library: Title: What is value? An introduction to axiologyAuthor: Frondizi, Risieri. Publisher:Open Court Pub. Co.,Pub date: 1971. Originally in Spanish. I am sure you are very knowledgeable already. But this seems to be a neglected study now in English speaking countries.
    – Gordon
    May 11, 2018 at 20:36
  • I don't know the work -- thank you for the recommendation. I recently asked a question related to finding a good introductory text for ethics, so this might also answer a question, too. Thanks!
    – simpatico
    May 11, 2018 at 20:55
  • Yes, I saw your question, and I put down a recommendation! Then I came here and saw this post, and I thought of Frondizi's book.
    – Gordon
    May 11, 2018 at 21:04

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