On the most basic level, humans are biologically selfish. Physically our body builds immunities. Through natural selection we have a temple that is designed to protect us from illness. What about mentally or emotionally? We are biologically selfish because our brain doesn’t just try to protect from physical harm, but also emotional harm.
For centuries humans have found emotional solace in company. Our sexual partners, our family, and our best friends for example. When a mutual connection is made, it’s not selfish, just two humans easing each others emotional needs.
Before technology blossomed in the 20th century, emotional solace was found in company as well as in tasks. Building things, creating ideas, keeping yourself busy. It was also found in art. With books and theatre people could teleport their imaginations into other worlds, into dramatic conflict, humor, or fantasy. This is where the word “escapism” comes into play.
Today’s world is a bit different. Never before has nearly every citizen, of every population had access to an online database of nearly infinite information. There were still ways to gather information back then, but it has never been as easy as it is today, right now, as you read this post.
Art is different too. It is more widely debated, discussed, and analyzed. All humans possess unique personalities genetically, and from their own past experiences. One person can easily lose themselves into a video game or television show, while another person finds their emotional therapy in activities, friends, or projects.
We use the term “escapism” in a negative connotation because nothing is being physically accomplished. It is used to describe someone in the early stages of an addiction. I hear it a lot lately surrounding today’s art. Addicted to video games, addicted to Netflix, etc. An addiction is a reliance on something. People can be addicted to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, food, and other items. Is addiction always bad? Too much of anything is not usually good for you, but some addiction are less harmful than others.
Being addicted to home-grown vegetables or running isn’t as destructive as an addiction to McDonalds. So where does this leave art? Video Games probably take most of the heat for this. Avid gamers have a growing stereotype of being overweight, physicall inept, and sometimes even not being able to deal with the sunlight or the outdoors.
Unfortunately Video Games and other forms of art get negative attention compared to other addictions. For example, football – an addiction to football can lead to being outside and playing a lot, but in today’s age is more often associated with a lot of television watching. Someone will dedicate four hours of their day to watch a football game, and it will be socially viewed as normal. While another person will play four hours of a video game and be socially viewed as a piraha.
When you put a person’s life in perspective you have to understand that every single person is unique, and that they all escape their troubles in different ways (some more destructively than others). Many people are so eager to point their fingers at someone with a more unrelatable addiction, even if it’s not destructive.
People escape in different ways, it is their therapy, every person has a different way to meditate or to engage themselves. It’s unfortunate that many people stand up so highly for their method of escapism while belittling other people’s methods. Something that I believe we will evolve away from the more intertwined our society becomes with technology and art in general.