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Coronavirus Disease 2019

A Little Escapism May Go a Long Way in a COVID-19 World

The virtual world may offer an escape from the current crisis.

Source: Tianya1233/Pixabay

Escapism has gotten a bad rap as of late. The Information Age has played a large role in that by supercharging the id with nearly every type of digital vice imaginable.

Aside from drugs and alcohol, there was a time when the negative effects of escapism primarily revolved around spending too little time with friends and family. It was possible to spend too much time carving wooden owls. However, even in hobby-excess, there was typically a tether to reality present.

The Internet severed that tether and allowed new forms of escapism. Online video games have allowed players to spend more time caring for their virtual home than their real home, put more effort into slaying a dragon than learning math, and be more concerned with what their character eats than what they themselves eat. Social media platforms have also played a role by encouraging people to meticulously curate virtual lives which bear no semblance to their actual lives in the pursuit of likes. Streaming services constantly strive to produce the next new binge-worthy show. It is, however, easy to point out the bad.

Some communities have benefited quite well from the relatively new Internet-ushered escapes. Online video games, for example, have been incredibly beneficial for people with disabilities. It reduces barriers in making new friends and equalizes some of the social skills people without disabilities may take for granted. Someone may be home-bound or have limited recreational options within their geographic location, but they may be able to slay that dragon with other people who only see their character—figuratively and literally—and not their disability.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus world that we are all enduring right now has given many people a taste of what it may be like to be home-bound. The American Psychiatric Association reports that 160 million American adults play internet-based games with 0.3 to 1.0 percent of the general population possibly qualifying for an Internet gaming disorder. Those numbers suggest that some healthy—or at least not necessarily unhealthy—escapism is occurring right now.

The world after the coronavirus pandemic may be very different from the world before it. Much like the world was very different before and after the September 11th attacks. The post-coronavirus world will hopefully change for the better since this pandemic has highlighted aspects of our lives that need to change. We need to get through it first, though.

Everyone needs to do what it takes to reduce the spread of coronavirus while trying to maintain their mental health. Disasters can have long-lasting implications for mental health, and many of us will not magically feel better when the all-clear is sounded. Many would benefit from replacing some cable news and social media with a little healthy escapism. The virtual world offers some healthy escapes, and online gaming may be more helpful now than ever before.

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