Virtual vs. Real-Life Identities – Is it Crazy to Choose a Virtual Life?

Millions of people become someone else everyday on the internet. People lie about their age, gender and occupation as a matter of course on forums and e-communities, and shift identities even more intensely when playing virtual world video games like World of Warcraft.

If you can be anything, you might as well be who you wish you were, rather than what limits you on this mortal realm. So if someone decides they like their online persona better, and decides to spend as much time in that persona as possible, living virtually – are they crazy?

Should we label them video game addicts, and intervene?

There is something incredibly seductive about this identity transformation, especially for people who feel somewhat dissatisfied with the life they live in the "real world". In MMPRPG’s (Massively multi player Role Playing Games) you emerge into a truly egalitarian world. You can be as good looking as everyone else, brave and incredibly successful, no matter how lowly your real world realities. In a virtual world, shy teens become leaders of armies, and the body conscious and insecure, objects of desire.

These games are addictive by design, and a lot of people get sucked into a virtual world existence, at the expense of their real life happiness. And surely a large part of the attraction is this ability to live an alternate, and in many ways, happier existence.

People get Addicted – But They Don’t Want to Quit

Millions of people around the world are whiling their lives away, largely within cyber identities, in virtual worlds. Many of these people recognize to some degree the costs incurred to their real world lives, yet an awful lot of these people seem to be making a conscious choice to keep playing.

They choose virtual contentment and pleasure, knowing full well the price they pay for it.

Now, some would argue that these people are just addicts in denial. That this is addicted thinking that keeps these gamers glued to their screens, and keeps them from taking the steps needed to restore some sanity to their worldly lives.

And they may be right – the games certainly are addictive, and denial is always part and parcel of addiction.

Or maybe they just choose a better life?

Gamers don’t often want to quit – other people around them convince them to. Gaming addiction (if that’s what it should be called?) certainly does create some real-world harms that can be hard for those around them to watch. After all, it’s hard to keep a job, physical health and a healthy social life when all awakened hours are spent alone in a darkened room.

But is it a form of mental illness to select an existence that brings you greater tangible pleasures? Gamers don’t complain of loneliness, they spend all day interacting with friends – those friends just happen to look like elves or dwarves, and they reside online.

Are online friends less real than physical world friends?

Gamers say they prefer the virtual world, that there they can be who they really want to be in life, and that it’s a life with little pain, great adventure, and fulfilling rewards – a far cry from the tedium of real world living.

Is that crazy?

People are finding love and getting married within games, they are setting up full time occupations in virtual shop fronts (and earning real world money to do so), and they are living the life they choose, free from restraint.

Is that crazy?

Are they Crazy?

 

I don’t know – I think they probably are…Crazy in terms of exhibiting all of the signs and symptoms that would lead to a clinical diagnosis of a compulsive disorder, anyway. And there is no doubt that some people pay an incredibly high price for their gaming – Their real world lives in shambles at the expense of an alternate reality. And as good as online friends may be – they can’t make you soup when you’re sick, and online love affairs won’t bring the joys of children.

So yes, I think they are probably crazy – but they’re not stupid. They choose something different, something that brings them more happiness than real world living seems able to, and somewhere that lets them be what they want to be. They may be crazy, but you can understand where they’re coming from.

It’s a tragic and fascinating phenomenon, just starting to really unfold – the tip of the coming iceberg, that’s for sure. As things get more sophisticated, and virtual lives continue to enrich – who’s to say what will become of all of us. Will there come a time when all of us choose the boundless possibilities of a virtual life over the limitations of physicality?

Do you try to rescue someone who swears they’re happy as they are?

For now, I think you gotta’. It’s too sad to watch someone give up on real world living, for what is still a pretty limited, albeit seductive, fantasy world life. It’s a mental health disorder, and it can be treated, and most people will probably be happier and more fulfilled by striving towards what they want in real life, rather than taking the easy way out, virtually.

But you can understand it, and one day, and maybe one day soon, those virtual worlds will start to legitimately compete with a real world existence, and that’s when it’s going to get truly and terribly interesting. Will we all be living virtually in 30 years?

Game Addiction Documentary (8 min)

An interesting exploration of the issue from the point of view of gamers caught up in their games.

 

Millions of people become someone else everyday on the internet. People lie about their age, gender and occupation as a matter of course on forums and e-communities, and shift identities even more intensely when playing virtual world video games like World of Warcraft.

If you can be anything, you might as well be who you wish you were, rather than what limits you on this mortal realm. So if someone decides they like their online persona better, and decides to spend as much time in that persona as possible, living virtually – are they crazy?

Should we label them video game addicts, and intervene?

There is something incredibly seductive about this identity transformation, especially for people who feel somewhat dissatisfied with the life they live in the "real world". In MMPRPG’s (Massively multi player Role Playing Games) you emerge into a truly egalitarian world. You can be as good looking as everyone else, brave and incredibly successful, no matter how lowly your real world realities. In a virtual world, shy teens become leaders of armies, and the body conscious and insecure, objects of desire.

These games are addictive by design, and a lot of people get sucked into a virtual world existence, at the expense of their real life happiness. And surely a large part of the attraction is this ability to live an alternate, and in many ways, happier existence.

People get Addicted – But They Don’t Want to Quit

Millions of people around the world are whiling their lives away, largely within cyber identities, in virtual worlds. Many of these people recognize to some degree the costs incurred to their real world lives, yet an awful lot of these people seem to be making a conscious choice to keep playing.

They choose virtual contentment and pleasure, knowing full well the price they pay for it.

Now, some would argue that these people are just addicts in denial. That this is addicted thinking that keeps these gamers glued to their screens, and keeps them from taking the steps needed to restore some sanity to their worldly lives.

And they may be right – the games certainly are addictive, and denial is always part and parcel of addiction.

Or maybe they just choose a better life?

Gamers don’t often want to quit – other people around them convince them to. Gaming addiction (if that’s what it should be called?) certainly does create some real-world harms that can be hard for those around them to watch. After all, it’s hard to keep a job, physical health and a healthy social life when all awakened hours are spent alone in a darkened room.

But is it a form of mental illness to select an existence that brings you greater tangible pleasures? Gamers don’t complain of loneliness, they spend all day interacting with friends – those friends just happen to look like elves or dwarves, and they reside online.

Are online friends less real than physical world friends?

Gamers say they prefer the virtual world, that there they can be who they really want to be in life, and that it’s a life with little pain, great adventure, and fulfilling rewards – a far cry from the tedium of real world living.

Is that crazy?

People are finding love and getting married within games, they are setting up full time occupations in virtual shop fronts (and earning real world money to do so), and they are living the life they choose, free from restraint.

Is that crazy?

Are they Crazy?

 

I don’t know – I think they probably are…Crazy in terms of exhibiting all of the signs and symptoms that would lead to a clinical diagnosis of a compulsive disorder, anyway. And there is no doubt that some people pay an incredibly high price for their gaming – Their real world lives in shambles at the expense of an alternate reality. And as good as online friends may be – they can’t make you soup when you’re sick, and online love affairs won’t bring the joys of children.

So yes, I think they are probably crazy – but they’re not stupid. They choose something different, something that brings them more happiness than real world living seems able to, and somewhere that lets them be what they want to be. They may be crazy, but you can understand where they’re coming from.

It’s a tragic and fascinating phenomenon, just starting to really unfold – the tip of the coming iceberg, that’s for sure. As things get more sophisticated, and virtual lives continue to enrich – who’s to say what will become of all of us. Will there come a time when all of us choose the boundless possibilities of a virtual life over the limitations of physicality?

Do you try to rescue someone who swears they’re happy as they are?

For now, I think you gotta’. It’s too sad to watch someone give up on real world living, for what is still a pretty limited, albeit seductive, fantasy world life. It’s a mental health disorder, and it can be treated, and most people will probably be happier and more fulfilled by striving towards what they want in real life, rather than taking the easy way out, virtually.

But you can understand it, and one day, and maybe one day soon, those virtual worlds will start to legitimately compete with a real world existence, and that’s when it’s going to get truly and terribly interesting. Will we all be living virtually in 30 years?

Game Addiction Documentary (8 min)

An interesting exploration of the issue from the point of view of gamers caught up in their games.

 

Is Internet Addiction Real? Does it Matter? Get the Help You Need

There is some debate about whether technological addictions are real. Not a debate about whether or not people seem to have problematic compulsions to use the internet or text message, everyone seems to be able to agree that these problems exist, but it’s less clear to clinicians that these compulsions are different enough to warrant their own classification as separate disorders.

People with cybersex addiction, some would argue, are simply sex addicts using the internet and people who can’t stop sending emails and check their blackberry in the middle of the night, don’t have an internet addiction, they are simply people with impulse control disorders and symptoms are manifested via technology.

On the flip side – other professionals argue that you can’t ignore the growing numbers of people complaining of technology compulsions, and that it’s clear that we are dealing with something new here – something that needs to be classified uniquely. The debate continues, although it’s looking more and more likely that internet addiction and other technological disorders will earn a place in the upcoming edition of psychiatry’s bible, the DSM-V5. And it’s a very important debate too.

The Debate is Both Important and Irrelevent

The recognition of these disorders as unique will mean that they gain legal status and recognition. It will mean that as insurance parity movements gain strength, people suffering an internet addiction will have a greater chance of claiming insurance benefits to treat their recognized "disease" and that employers will afford the technologically sick the same rights and protections as they would grant anyone sick with any other disorder. So it’s important, and the scientists are taking a good hard look at the whole thing and in a few years anyway, we’ll all probably understand technological compulsions a lot better. But for now, the ambiguity of it all is not helpful to those stuck in the middle – in never never land.

It’s not helpful to be suffering an uncontrollable compulsion to do something, to have that compulsion harm your health and happiness, and to have people say that what you’re suffering – isn’t real. And it’s not helpful to delay getting treatment for something that’s giving you problems because you don’t want to seem crazy or because your friends and family think it’s ridiculous.

Is it an addiction – is it something else? It doesn’t matter!

For now, the debate raging offers little benefit to those people whose online habits are causing them problems. It doesn’t matter at all whether someone else calls it internet addiction, or gaming addiction, or a big fat figment of your imagination – if you need help, then you need to get it.

3 Questions – and 3 Answers That Will Tell You All You Need to Know.

  • Does your internet/gaming/texting habit cause you problems in life?

Answered yes? Then you have a problem. Seems obvious, but it’s a fundamental part of the equation.

  • Do you continue to use the internet/game/text devices even though you know it causes you problems?
  • Have you tried to stop internet/gaming/texting, and failed?

If you answered yes three times, then you have a problem, a problem that affects your quality of life, and yet you continue, and when you try to quit – you can’t. If you answered yes three times, then you need help, and it doesn’t matter at all what anyone else labels your disorder.

There are therapies that work and techniques that you can learn to help you manage your compulsions to use the internet in a controlled and limited way. But unless you take some serious steps to change, then you have to accept that things aren’t going to change. This addiction (or whatever else you wanna’ call it) seems to be like most other addictions, in that it’s progressive and getting better takes a little effort.

Don’t wait for someone else to recognize your problem to get help. If you know you have a problem, then you should know that you need, and deserve help.

There is some debate about whether technological addictions are real. Not a debate about whether or not people seem to have problematic compulsions to use the internet or text message, everyone seems to be able to agree that these problems exist, but it’s less clear to clinicians that these compulsions are different enough to warrant their own classification as separate disorders.

People with cybersex addiction, some would argue, are simply sex addicts using the internet and people who can’t stop sending emails and check their blackberry in the middle of the night, don’t have an internet addiction, they are simply people with impulse control disorders and symptoms are manifested via technology.

On the flip side – other professionals argue that you can’t ignore the growing numbers of people complaining of technology compulsions, and that it’s clear that we are dealing with something new here – something that needs to be classified uniquely. The debate continues, although it’s looking more and more likely that internet addiction and other technological disorders will earn a place in the upcoming edition of psychiatry’s bible, the DSM-V5. And it’s a very important debate too.

The Debate is Both Important and Irrelevent

The recognition of these disorders as unique will mean that they gain legal status and recognition. It will mean that as insurance parity movements gain strength, people suffering an internet addiction will have a greater chance of claiming insurance benefits to treat their recognized "disease" and that employers will afford the technologically sick the same rights and protections as they would grant anyone sick with any other disorder. So it’s important, and the scientists are taking a good hard look at the whole thing and in a few years anyway, we’ll all probably understand technological compulsions a lot better. But for now, the ambiguity of it all is not helpful to those stuck in the middle – in never never land.

It’s not helpful to be suffering an uncontrollable compulsion to do something, to have that compulsion harm your health and happiness, and to have people say that what you’re suffering – isn’t real. And it’s not helpful to delay getting treatment for something that’s giving you problems because you don’t want to seem crazy or because your friends and family think it’s ridiculous.

Is it an addiction – is it something else? It doesn’t matter!

For now, the debate raging offers little benefit to those people whose online habits are causing them problems. It doesn’t matter at all whether someone else calls it internet addiction, or gaming addiction, or a big fat figment of your imagination – if you need help, then you need to get it.

3 Questions – and 3 Answers That Will Tell You All You Need to Know.

  • Does your internet/gaming/texting habit cause you problems in life?

Answered yes? Then you have a problem. Seems obvious, but it’s a fundamental part of the equation.

  • Do you continue to use the internet/game/text devices even though you know it causes you problems?
  • Have you tried to stop internet/gaming/texting, and failed?

If you answered yes three times, then you have a problem, a problem that affects your quality of life, and yet you continue, and when you try to quit – you can’t. If you answered yes three times, then you need help, and it doesn’t matter at all what anyone else labels your disorder.

There are therapies that work and techniques that you can learn to help you manage your compulsions to use the internet in a controlled and limited way. But unless you take some serious steps to change, then you have to accept that things aren’t going to change. This addiction (or whatever else you wanna’ call it) seems to be like most other addictions, in that it’s progressive and getting better takes a little effort.

Don’t wait for someone else to recognize your problem to get help. If you know you have a problem, then you should know that you need, and deserve help.