Addiction: The Danger of Virtual Lifestyles

virtual

Typically when we think of addiction we seem to attribute it to the extensive use of substances that begin to take a toll on people’s lives. We often attribute it to the abuse of alcohol or drugs, but what we seem to forget is that there are many ways that people try to escape their reality. One way is through living a virtual lifestyle.

So, what can one do in a virtual life? One can create an avatar and another existence of and for themselves, where they can get a job, interact with other users and live a second life in the online world.

For many years, I have been interested in exploring the social implications of media content and interactive technologies, particularly in the regard of addiction when it comes to virtual realities. It is not news that video games are highly addictive, but it is virtual reality gaming that is the most concerning of all, and where addiction is likely to exist.

Serious neglect to real life comes with individuals that consume themselves in a life where they are able to escape and create identities behind a screen, such as in role-playing games like Prius Online and Second Life. Virtual realities become the answer to those that want to be part of a community away from the one that they are a part of, or lack-thereof, in real life. But why?

Altered states of being where one can experience the same release of dopamine as one does on substances may be the leading cause as to why individuals resort to this form of experience where they transport themselves into a new world and experience temporary pleasure. But it is when it is on-going and one ignores his or her real life when exposure to virtual realities starts to become dangerous. One example of this is the death of a child who was starved due to a parent’s obsession with raising a virtual child in South Korea. According to The Guardian, a 41-year-old man and 26-year-old woman left their three-month-old daughter starving to death while they left to an internet café to devote hours to playing a computer game in which they were raising another girl.

It is then when we start to see the detrimental effects of becoming to attached to something, and it is when we neglect our duties and responsibilities that our obsessions become concerning. I’ve never actually experienced living a virtual lifestyle. The closest I’ve been to has been SIMS, but I can’t imagine spending hours and hours on end disconnected from the world, but for some people there’s an appeal in that. I respect people’s decision to live their lives, either virtually or not, but they must remember to not neglect what they can experience in the real world.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you ever lived a virtual lifestyle?

References:

Tran, M. (2010, March 5). Girl starved to death while parents raised virtual child in online game. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/05/korean-girl-starved-online-game

3 thoughts on “Addiction: The Danger of Virtual Lifestyles

  1. This is shocking, and yet oddly believable in today’s society. It is unfortunate, and it is really upsetting that this is a future that we have to look forward to. Also that this is something that has surfaced is scary in and of itself.

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  2. Virtual lifestyles are like anything that is escapist, it gives you the creative outlet you miss in your life, you can do exciting things that aren’t always possible in real life. At the heart of virtual lifestyles is ‘play,’ something we as adults don’t get to do as much as we did as kids. Video games, Second Life and playing make believe with your barbies or toys, they are all about ‘play’ and getting lost in yourself, much like how dreams allow us to get lost in ourselves and discover. The addiction factor in virtual lifestyles is dangerous, but the larger issue is what the addicted person is not dealing with in their life. I think virtual lifestyles can just be for fun, just depends on the person.

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