In childhood, flights and diversions into a fantasy world have a great deal of meaning and value. That fantasy world of the imagination is all about learning the joy of stretching one's mind beyond what you can see and touch. It's all about leanring how to think beyond where you are right now and learning how to think beyond where you are right now and learning how you might react in a given situation. It is learning simply how to play and create out of nothing more than the contents of your own imagination.
For adults, fantasy can become less about learning how to prepare for reality and more about how to escape from it. Children create fantasy to practice who they will be; adults create fantasy to hide from who they are. This is the potent snare of the Internet and online ativities represent. It is not merely the diversion provided throught the sheer amount of time online and away from having to deal with your real life. It is also about the content of the illusion you seek to create and maintain online, from the carefully constructed "you" on Facebook to the avatars you incarnate on gaming sites. The more stressful your life is, the more of a draw virtual diversions become.
We all want to better ourselves; it's part of growing up. By understanding and confronting our weaknesses and faults, we work toward growing beyond them and becoming better people. In this case the journey is at least as important better people. In this case the journey is at least as important as the destination. Invaluable life lessons are learned along the way to personal improvement.
The Internet, however, provides a deceptive dead-end disguised as a shortcut. Online, personal improvement can come at the click of a mouse, an improvement of status, the posting of a flattering photo. There is no journey to take, no struggle, no lesson, only the appearance of arrival - smiling and thirty pounds thinner. Online you can claim to be better than you actually are, and most people cannot know the difference. You can claim to be whatever you think you should be, deceiving both yourself and others.
Virtual reality is alluring because it avoids the nuts and bolts of true reality. It sanitizes the situation, bleaching out the problems and frustrations, leaving a spotless canvas upon which to paint an impossible portrait of life. Reality doesn't have that option. It can't duck paying the bills, cleaning the garage, dealing with the boss, coping with an angry spouse, battling the flu, putting on weight, or confronting a disobedient child. In a virtual world you only have to deal with the challenges you want to face, when you want to, how you want to. In a virtual world you can choose to deal only with the challenges that don't matter because they're not really real. It's why virtual reality is more game than life.
The above is excerpted from 5 chapter in #Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking by Dr. Gregory Jantz.