On The Balance Between Social Awareness & Healthy Escapism
Is your practice of social awareness hindered by your need for escapism?
You see the videos on Facebook, you read the headlines on Twitter, you see the filters on Instagram. No matter which side of the line you stand on, there is no denying that so much is happening around us: the call for mass testing, the debate on the Anti-Terrorism bill, the return of the workforce and the absence of enough public transportation. Across oceans, there are civil battles going on, protests blowing up, shop stores being broken into, people whose lives are voluntarily or involuntarily put at risk.
You try to silence the noise. You put on Spotify, you browse through Netflix, you scour through YouTube for a video you haven’t seen—all in an attempt to escape the dread. But the question, as posed by friends and commenters alike, is: Do we have the right to escapism now, when the need for social awareness is at its peak?
What is escapism?
Escapism is defined as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.” But let’s put it simply, shall we?
Escapism is any activity you do to keep your mind away from reality. It’s stepping away from your desk after a particularly difficult meeting and taking a walk, it’s pressing play on a comedy at the end of the day. It’s consciously telling your lungs to inhale and exhale, it’s telling your mind to stay quiet. Sometimes it’s sitting on the toilet a little longer than you need to or dancing in the shower long after the suds have been washed away.
Why do we do it?
To explain, let me borrow a few words from The Haunting Of Hill House, where Shirley Jackson writes: “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.” Essentially, we practice the art of escapism to stay ourselves and be okay, to not drown in the negativity and shit that family, friends, significant others, bosses and governments are constantly pilling on top if us.
We do it because the world gets, and sometimes constantly is, difficult.
Is it healthy?
I can’t count the times I’ve tried to escape from the realities of my life with the help of television, music or some good ol’ imagination. And not to toot my own horn, but escapism and learning when to engage or disengage with an emotion is a sign of emotional intelligence. But that isn’t to say it doesn’t become unhealthy as well.
So back to reality
Escapism, even in all its glory, still has its downfall. When practiced too much or too often, it takes us away from things we need to get done and away from the person we should be at a given time. We need to understand that the work still needs to be accomplished, the dishes need to be washed and the kids still need to be bathed.
And in this world and at this time, the news needs to be digested (emphasis on digested—as in not taken at face value).
Social awareness vs escapism
So how are we supposed to draw the line? How do we carefully cross the in-between of healthy escapism and our responsibility to stay socially aware?
The answer to these questions can be arrived at personally answering another: Why are you escaping? If it’s because you’ve heard and seen too much, then escape. If your heart is breaking, take the time to put it back together. If it’s as noisy in your head as it is outside, then take a goddamn second to stand yourself upright. But if you’re choosing to escape because you’d rather stay ignorant and neutral without basis, then check yourself. If you’re opting to quickly scroll through the very real images of our reality to save yourself from a difficult conversation, it’s time to face the music. Don’t use escapism as an excuse to stay comfortable—no matter how tempting it might be.
Let me close this off by saying that I know we each have a responsibility to stay up-to-date, to listen, to speak, to act as much as we can—and we implore you to do so, when you are able. But you cannot let all this shit tire you out; what can you do when you’re run down and tired and hopeless, after all? Please sit in quiet and recharge once in a while or as often as you need to. And don’t feel guilty about it, either; we’ll see you on another day, when you’re stronger and up to the challenge.
Art Alexandra Lara