This is an article presenting an opinion of the writer.
Escapism is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
“habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine”.
However, this “habitual diversion of the mind” terminology has been contested by some researchers, who argue that certain groups of people use escapism more casually (i.e. not habitually) while others treat it as an everyday pastime. For some people, on the other hand, this “habit” soon becomes a form of procrastination, causing their own personal lives to stagnate or even decline.
Sarah Kohler, a researcher from the University of Muenster, recently conducted a study of 400 students, concluding that:
"Media use for escape can certainly be a form of procrastination, but not all media escapism serves this purpose. This is particularly important because communication science needs to think more clearly about the distinction between escapism in general and procrastination specifically."
Whether it’s friends, colleagues, family, or ourselves, we needn’t look far to find good, hardworking people who are not satisfied with their careers, their financial situation, their skills, and/or their relationships. We all have goals and obstacles, but media escapism is something that I see in today's atmosphere that is preventing us from tackling the stress from those obstacles in a healthy way.
With the healthy amount of spare time we have, a lot of us unfortunately turn to alternate, digital realities to cope with the stresses that come with facing our obstacles instead of using that valuable time growing. These alternate realities, can come in the form of motion-picture, television, video-games, social media, and even the news. In today's media climate, these mediums have become amplified by billion dollar franchises and new technologies. What once was a 30 to 90 minutes session of entertainment a day is being viciously promoted to longer sessions.
My belief that a lack of respect for audiences' time and money has allowed the big media-entertainment corporations to capitalize on and grow unhealthy media consumption habits. For me, it's simply a case of greed. For evidence, look no further than Hulu's data it provides to potential advertisers: There’s No Such Thing as Too Much TV
A lack of respect for audiences' time and money has allowed the big media-entertainment corporations to capitalize on and grow unhealthy media consumption habits.
As pointed out in a recent article by Medium, it can become difficult to distinguish between watching a TV show or playing a video game for “fun” and then doing it compulsively because we’re “addicted” to it. Today, people, young or old, can be diagnosed with with a type of digital media addiction. However, children have to most to risk.
According to an article by the Center On Media and Child Health, "excessive and compulsive use of the internet and video games may lead to academic struggle, poor family relationships, impaired social functioning, and emotional and psychiatric problems."
Of course, escapism has always been incorporated into media art which allowed the consumer to enter a world much different from their own. In times like the great depression, artists intentionally created escapes for people to escape the horrors of their daily lives. For me this hints that distraction can serve some good for people's lives, especially during moments of hardship and helplessness.
I personally don't completely agree with the escapist methods during the the 1930s, but I do agree with one thing: Intent. That is the difference between then and now...
By intent I mean conscious media creating and mindful participation. The artists o the 1930s openly and consciously offered the value of retreat to audiences, and in turn audiences participated in mindful consumption. With the technology at the time, perhaps it was even near impossible to completely slip away like we can today.
Conscious decision making and mindful participation.
For me, the solution for today's abuse of media escapism, by artists and consumers, lies in that equation. Consciousness and mindfulness.
Regarding us as audiences, we can start simply by establishing healthy media consumption habits, such as:
Setting limits and parameters of how, when, where, why, how long we spend time on media and technology
Finding our triggers for unhealthy consumption habits and replacing them with healthy stress relief and emotional growth exercises
Being media consumer role models for our family and friends
Keeping a media consumption journal or tracker on our devices
The battle for artists will be less straight forward and more difficult. Perhaps we need to usher in a new era of conscious art? An era of healthy media which strives to capture the consumer’s attention without dominating their life? An era of creating media that not only seeks to entertain its consumers, but to heal them. How do we start doing this?
As a filmmaker and artist myself, it's going to start by just doing it: making conscious and healthy media one piece at a time. And with that, I think we artists should strive to advise each other to better intentions.
Time to Get Reel
Mindful consumers, conscious artists, and a community that advises one another to do better. That is the solution, and that is why I founded Reel Nation Media. Its mission is to:
To unite virtuous, sincere artists and audiences to inspire truth, understanding, hope, and reform, within themselves and the world, in a beautiful, powerful, and enjoyable journey through the media arts.
What's your take on media escapism? Be sure to let me know in the comments! If you agree with and like what I'm thinking, then I want to ask you to become a citizen of Reel Nation Media by signing up to the website and engaging in with the healthy community and content that we are working hard to establish. Currently our numbers are small and our library is small, but we are growing!
As a member, here are some things you can do right now:
Introduce yourself and communicate with the community on our forums
Watch exclusive free content, like Hot Fizz, a short film with a twist you won't see coming
Subscribe to a special behind the scenes bi-weekly newsletter from my filmmaking adventures
More insights like this are on the way! Until then...