Webster defines “virtual” as: “very close to being something without actually being it”. That definition has similarities to the world we live in. “Some live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality, and then there are those who turn one into the other.”– Douglas H. Everett We all seek to escape from our everyday lives, we see pieces of evidence by the fact that people watch movies, play video games or go on vacation. The danger exists when the balance between the real world and the one that is in our mind start to merge indistinguishably.

Experts have calculated that the planet as a whole plays 3 billion hours of video games per week. Surprisingly, we hear far more detrimental comments on Gaming and promoting violence than we hear about the benefits of gaming. I am not writing an article on the benefits and detriments of gaming. There is plenty of information to support both ideas. I am looking at the time we give up interacting with real people. Losing the skill set of having meaningful discussions about problems and current events with our peers can be a point of concern. While gaming is a good outlet for relaxation, it should not take the place of conversations with real people about things happening today. Balancing life is always a challenge in 2018. What makes up the greatest portion of your non-work time? It appears we make time for the things we value in life. Is the greatest portion of your time spent in the real world?

I had a sudden lapse into nostalgia last week and recalled a time when there weren’t social media. Communication was difficult without this popular medium. Immediate conversations rarely happened unless contact was made by the telephone Yet, I wonder if we valued those relationships more than we do today? I think overexposure through these social portals can affect normal relationships. Experts say a person can only maintain 150 friends at any given time if they were dedicated 24 hours a day to that task. We can fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. “The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”

― Voltaire

The warning signs are when people take notice of the differences within your social media profile and the way you act in person. Spending too much time in this pseudo world can easily fool others but ultimately might end up just fooling ourselves. Occasionally, we should write a letter (you remember those things), pick up the phone and call someone or mail a postcard. These mediums will cost you more than a few keystrokes but can be so meaningful to the recipient. They will also keep you grounded and operating in the real world.

In 1983, HBO broadcast An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later. The series inspired the MTV reality television series The Real World. This was the birth of programming that would forever change the shows people watched on television. We are all familiar with the term “Reality Television”. Most of us would be hard-pressed to deny having watched at least a portion of this genre of entertainment. There was a time when this type of behavior was referred to as voyeurism. Gerald Mast’s quote says it very well:

Voyeurism allows us to experience all the excitement of disaster, catastrophe, and pain, to witness the most horrible human events, without any danger of feeling real pain.

It becomes obvious “Reality Television” is just another escape from the real world. It appears reality television is just an escape from the problems we don’t want to face in our own lives. If television is a lens into the behavior of our society, we might be living in a fantasy world or running a con game on ourselves. How much of an escape from reality is healthy?

Finally, the way we look at a person’s self-esteem might be our biggest escape from reality. We see kids receiving trophies for finishing in the last place in a competition. This award is to protect our children’s self-esteem, but are we showing them a world that doesn’t really exist? The world, in some aspects, is a better place than the one of my childhood in the 1970’s. Yet, I am concerned we are raising a future generation that has been appeased with false promises and incorrect perceptions. Part of real-world living involves failure, disappointments and recognizing our strengths and weaknesses. We discover who we really are through failures, it is sometimes our greatest teacher. To remove these assets of learning from our children places them in a precarious position. The child, that eventually becomes an adult is introduced to society and its pressures, and this introduction can be an alarming event. Balance is the key to anything in life. Teaching our kids this balance at an early age will yield greater benefits than we can calculate.

In conclusion. I think in the end we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. Life is tough and everyone needs to escape its pressures to realign or refocus themselves. Above all things, we need to be real. People will approve and disapprove of most things you do. Hiding in a pseudo world doesn’t protect us from pain, failure or disappointment, it only amplifies that they exist. I will leave you with one of my favorite passages, it is from the Velveteen Rabbit. I think it speaks to the heart of everyone the value that comes from being in the real world, and of course being a real person.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”