Dictionary definitions of escapism:

Concise Oxford Dictionary:  ‘The tendency to seek, or practice of seeking, distraction or relief from reality.’

Websters Dictionary: ‘A temporary mental release from reality.  A tendency to escape from reality, the responsibility and routine of real life, especially by unrealistic imaginative activity.’

These examples both agree that the point of departure for escapism is ‘reality’, but as our observations of reality are influenced profoundly by societal stimuli. Our perceptions of escapism are consequently affected and defined by our perceptions of reality.

Escapism could be seen as a way of reaching a state of mind where we are at our happiest, but this state we are achieving may only be an illusion of happiness, we always have to come back to reality to suffice our basic need before re-visiting an avenue of escape. 

The modern mass media can affect our perception of reality yet it can also offer us a release from it.  This can seen in escapist activities that offers a simulated alternative to reality.  For example, films and television shows, computer games and the perpetual rise of the Internet.  There is an evolving relationship between escapism and this industry, where they simulate our dissatisfaction with life through advertising, but never offer a solution as a product.  They aim to generate needs that have to be repetitively satisfied.  

People escape from their own concepts of reality, so how do our differing perceptions of reality affect the ways in which we escape from it?

An observation may be that if ‘escapism’ forwards us into some form of ‘non-reality’ then we have to assume that our perceptions of failure or boredom are real enough for us to want to escape from.

I feel that I may need to broaden my definition of escapist activities, as means of escape do not necessarily have to entail a flight from reality.  For example, taking part in sports or going out dancing are clearly ‘real’ activities that people may use as a form of escape.  As I needed to broaden the definition of reality to include perceptions of reality, I also need to broaden my definition of escapist to include ‘real’ activities as well.      

As well as researching the cause of escapism, I need to understand what is used as a means of escape.  I could research through interviews build up a profile of an eclectic number of individuals, their perceptions of their own realities and what they feel they escape from?  Or look at different personality types, i.e. introverts and extroverts, and investigate how this affects perceptions of reality and the type of escapism involved.

The more society itself is escapist; the more this shifts the way we escape from it.  For example, an average city worker, who spends 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen, answering phone calls and responding to e-mails, after he has spent his day earning the money in order for him to satisfy his basic needs, he may then go home and ‘escape’ from it all by watching television or a film, he may play a few computer games before he has to recharge his body before he does it all again.  His whole existence takes place in a virtual world, yet to him it is his reality.  So what then is escapism to this individual? We could assume that he might go for long walks or join a gym to lift weights? But if we consider what is ‘work’ to an individual living in an impoverished country, it may be long walks in order to collect materials, it may be lifting weights in order to transport nourishment to his or her family. 

So not only do we have to consider different perceptions of reality that contribute to different escapist activities, we also have to take into account that it also depends heavily on the context of reality.


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September 2007
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