Mediated Reality Impact of the Virtual World

Mediated Reality Impact of the Virtual World

Mediated Reality Impact of the Virtual World

In his book The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxely opened himself to the wonderful and reorienting experience of taking mescaline. His description of the ‘trip’ and the resulting investigation into art and human life makes him question the primacy of the verbal over the visual. His altered vision and changed conceptions of the world make him argue that the intake of mescaline is evidence of the “universal and ever-present urge to self-transcendence”. As such, we are doomed to keep opening doors which will allow us to transcend our reality, even if for a short period of time. The worries of his time, that of individuals indulging excessively on smoke and drink, aren’t very different from ours even today. One can observe an intense need to dissociate periodically from our environment and our Self, a need to drastically forget our existence. What is it that we find so painful or so boring? Prominent today is the use of social media platforms and their limitless features. Their pros and cons are a known fact yet little to no thought is given to the amount of space they unconsciously assume in our lives. With technology thriving in the 21st CE, us consumers are not concerned much with the underlying psychological impact of the same. The primacy of the visual is one of the rules most social media platforms operate by. And it is this rule which has generated problems such as warped body image. While body positivity and body neutrality movements are working their cause through these very platforms by subverting these spaces and calling for diverse inclusions, we must understand further exactly why we engage in such a distortion of our very reality. Just like the drug mescaline, we find our consciousness modified and our perception opening up another door.A PSYCHOANALYTIC STUDY
For Sigmund Freud, civilization imposed restrictions that warred against the instincts of human beings. The instincts are driven by the pleasure principle that works to either attain pleasure or deter feeling unpleasure.With a consumer dominant world today, where one’s insecurities are exploited and wants are inorganically created, the restricted pleasure principle modifies into the reality principle. Still, gratification of these needs, especially those which are taboo, drives us discontent individuals to engage in multiple methods to channel this dissatisfaction, through powerful deflections, substitutive satisfactions and intoxicating substances. Today, we can categorize the use of social media as a substitutive satisfaction. The use of it to combat boredom or painful/sad realities or even build false virtual Selves and reality often aim to diminish our misery and create an alternate life. Freud writes in Civilization and its discontents, “Substitutive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions contrasted in contrast with reality, but they are nonetheless psychically effective, thanks to the role which phantsay has assumed in mental life.” (Freud,1930). Phantasy in psychoanalysis refers to ‘imagined fulfilments of frustrated wishes’.Thus, its basis is the unconscious with its reservoir of repressed and frustrated wishes. While art acted as a substitute for these wishes, a cinematic manipulation of it seen in Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, social media platforms which are dominantly visual based allow one to act out these fantasies. One can ‘construct’ a proxy world wherein their sense of Self differs from their real-time Self. While these platforms have helped many in dealing with various problems, their inclusion in our daily lives has increased ten-fold, especially with the pandemic. It is no wonder that Japanese has a slang, "Riajuu" (リア充 ), which is used to describe someone who leads a fulfilling offline (real world) life.

The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicator Report January-March 2022 1 calculated 824.89 million internet subscribers, with the total internet subscribers being every 60 out 100 individuals. A study 2 of technology addiction in school going adolescents of India observed 10.69% of its participants suffering from technology addiction. In their Yearly Performance Indicators Indian Telecom Sector 2020 Report 3 the number of internet subscribers was 795.18 million subscribers. Research regarding student’s stress and internet addiction during COVID-19 lockdown 4 found that 62% of 297 participants have ‘moderate internet addiction’. Further, positive correlation was found between ‘perceived stress’ and internet addiction.

The statistics all point to the presence of questionable impact of technology, a fact we must accept in tandem with its positive implications. Here, I choose to talk of the negatives to raise awareness that technology addiction is beyond a compulsion to surf the internet or scroll through platforms. Our very Self is put at risk when we choose (consciously or unconsciously) to engage with such mediums. Since these platforms actively construct a reality with reference to our activity on them, we start looking at reality through them. Our sense of being embodied in an environment also extends to the virtual world and consequently, affects us quite similarly and easily distorts it.
As R.D.Laing highlighted in his work The Divided Self that with regard to patients (especially schizophrenics) we must also have an existentialist outlook to understand their world, similarly with technological addiction we must aim to understand the virtual world which we have created and the nature of our dependency. The fantasy that one creates has the danger of becoming addictive. Technology usage, I believe, can be compared to daydreaming where abnormal use of both can turn maladaptive for the individual. Consistent use of photoshop and filters distort the manner through which we view reality and can consequently create disturbances when the individual is unable to merge reality and fiction. The dissonance due to presence of both the virtual and the real world oftens brings forth a split in the individual and can initiate a sense of disconnection. Borrowing from Laing’s work, we must emphasize on the importance of having an integral selfhood and personal identity. He had observed these, with other factors, a necessity in having a sense of ontological security 5 . In his schizophrenic patients, such security was lacking and they had entered a stage of ontological insecurity. While this does not aim to equate schizophrenics with our technological addiction, we must be aware of the schizoid nature our civilization can attain collectively if we enter the digital world without any knowledge of its safe use.

About the Author

Katyayani Singh

I am a Philosophy student currently pursuing Master's in Psychology from Ambedkar University, Delhi. Passionate about understanding the core of our

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