Virtual reality or VR is a buzzword popularized by Jaron Lanier of VPL research in the 1980s. At that time, despite wide media interest in it, the technology wasn’t developed at all. Now, with Microsoft’s Project HoloLens and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, tech giants are investing billions of dollars in projects related to virtual reality. The already developed technologies related to virtual reality beacons to a future dominated by the VR movement. It is predicted that like smartphones these days, people will spend most of their time in virtual spaces. This technological revolution will dramatically change people’s way of life as it will provide the easiest way to bypass the horrors of real life and immerse into a world exactly designed as the individual’s brain wants it to. Virtual reality will replace reality: people would able to escape reality the second they want.
Virtual Reality and Social Withdrawal
Unsatisfying life circumstances often instigate people to indulge in drugs or other substantially harmful activities: the purpose is often, if not always, to forget reality, to get rid of it. However, even though they try to escape reality, people possibly cannot live outside reality for long. But, with virtual reality the case would be different as people will live online life devoid of any regular social activities. Social withdrawal and self-imposed isolation would be a very common phenomenon once full-fledged VR kicks in.
Future World and Virtual Reality
Futurist thinkers predict that virtual reality will significantly change conventional outlook to life and living. People will increasingly find social relationships meaningless and turn inward to cope up with the changing social milieu. The case of the half-million Japanese people who hardly ever leave their homes is quite fitting with this dangerous prediction. Coverage of the hikikomori people by the NY Times and the BBC is rather too apocalyptic when we envision a future immersed with Virtual reality. Like these Japanese citizens, there are hundreds of thousands across the world consider the life online “preferable to the drudgery of everyday life,” to put in the words of World of Warcarft player Ryan van Cleave who used to spend days playing the game. The tragic death of the three-year old girl from starvation and dehydration, as her mother Rebecca Christie continuously chatted and participated in online role-playing game for 15 hours, indicates a very bleak future for depending on others who demonstrate negative escapism.
Love in the World of Virtual Reality
Negative escapism, or unhealthy escapism, would be the phenomenal trend in the future world dominated by VR. Meeting the very basic needs of life—food and shelter—would all that a person with negative escapism care for: the idea of love and belonging would be totally negated. As the researchers claim, love will be saturated in the screen and be more satisfying to the addicted users who withdraw physically from society. Porn addiction has a correlation with failed relationship, and virtual reality or VR porn will significantly reduce the number of people to be involved in a relationship with commitments. In the world of virtual reality, love will be absolutely virtual, if not platonic!
Is Virtual Reality Really Bad?
Who am I to judge you, your way of life? Yes, VR, like all scientific inventions, is neither bad nor good. It will take the meaning we impose on it. It is expected that within a short time tech giants will supply the market with numerous gadgets rich with virtual reality technologies. It wouldn’t be totally wrong to state that, to some degree, this has already happened. In our traditional society, escapism has a meaning that is predominantly negative: it refers to the tendency of people who are unable to face facts, who find it difficult or are bored to navigate the real world. However, in a society conditioned by virtual reality escapism may incorporate a totally opposite meaning. People may start looking at those who prefers isolation and withdrawal from a very different perspective: if someone is dissatisfied with his or her everyday life, she/he has the right to find pleasure in virtual reality. Do we stigmatize a book-worm who lives with characters from the romantic novels she/he devours? We don’t! What’s wrong if someone prefers to live with characters from the virtual world?