Resist Virtual Reality Addiction

by Frost on August 15, 2011

If I could give one piece of advice to the men and women of the world, it would be this: Stop wasting your time on stupid bullshit. Eliminate the unimportant from your life, and fill the time and energy it took up with something better.

The most common form that unimportant bullshit takes is that of electronic stimuli designed to trick your brain into thinking you’re doing something adaptive. Playing Halo makes your hindbrain think you’re a brave hero, defeating enemy tribes and protecting/impressing your women. Watching Friends makes it think you’re hanging out with a bunch of attractive, witty friends. Jerking off to porn makes it think you’re banging hot sluts.

If you let these kinds of artificial stimuli take over your life, you become a prisoner to Virtual Reality. Maybe that’s OK to you. If not, get ready to test your willpower in the coming years, because the VR stimuli is only going to get better. If you want to live a complete and fulfilling real life, you have to be strong enough to resist the temptations of fake accomplishment that trigger your brain’s  neurochemical reward circuits all the same.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely eschew the sensual pleasures of VR. I play Starcraft a few hours a week, and I love it. I watch movies. I try to keep a few TV shows ready to go on my laptop, so I can watch a few episodes on the occasional rainy, hungover afternoon when I don’t have the energy or inclination to do anything ambitious or productive.

The important caveat is that in an average week,  I spend no more than ~5 hours tricking my brain into thinking that my life is getting better, when the reality is I’m just being passively entertained. I don’t beat myself up over it, but I also know that, on some level, those are hours of my life that I won’t get back.

There are two ways to address the problem of how to stop wasting your life on virtual reality, and how to replace those hours with life.

The first is to look at VR as a symptom of boredom. Eliminate the boredom, and the VR will no longer have a role to fill. If you’re mostly satisfied with your life, I recommend this approach. So for example, I have a 5hr/week video game habit. That’s fine for now, because I really enjoy indulging, but I also know that at some point in the near future, it would be nice to have such a full and exciting life, that I don’t even want to play the game. I don’t want to have five spare hours in a week. I’m going to work to fill my days with so much joy and excitement, that there’s no room left for video games. Or, perhaps, I eventually realize that I just love a given game or TV show so much, that I would pass up on an afternoon of hang-gliding over rainforests and threesomes with supermodels for it.

The other way is to look at VR as a ball of recently-trimmed pubic hair clogging up the drain of your life. Remove the VR, and you force real life to intrude. If you work a second full-time job in the World of Warcraft, this approach is probably best for you. Quit cold turkey, and give yourself the challenge of having to fill up those once-wasted hours. You can sit and stare at a wall, or you can hit the gym, call a friend, read a book, skip through a meadow or whatever.

Of course, there’s also the surprise third option – live a life of VR, and accept it. Get your sense-of-accomplishment chemicals from imaginary quests, get your damn-son-I-get-laid-like-tile chemicals from Red Tube, and get your social interaction from 4chan. Maybe you laugh now, but millions of men have already chosen this path, and the ability of technology to flood our brain’s reward centers will only improve with time.

Have you ever lost a friend to VR? Are you a current or recovering VR addict? If so, please share your experience in the comments (anonymously, if you prefer).

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Andacar December 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Very well said, though I fear comments like these are lost in the din of mindless crap out there online. A few people are predicting the obvious consequences of ever more immersive 3D virtual reality, but like Cassandra, they are doomed to not be heard until it is too late. The Matrix got it all wrong; people won’t be trying to get out, they will never want to leave. We’ll have to drag them kicking and screaming from those VR chambers (assuming there’s anyone left in the real world). They will stay in there until they starve to death. We will be pulling corpses out of those things, and somebody will get unbelievably rich controlling the content, and thus the very lives of all those billions of pathetic addicts. I already know a lot of people who are completely addicted to chat rooms, gossip, internet games or virtual worlds as it is, and there will be no saving them when VR becomes common (and it will). VR will spawn an addiction epidemic that will make the worst crack or meth outbreaks look like folk dances by comparison.

Chad Daring October 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Hi, my name is Chad, I’m a recovering World of Warcraft addicted

I spent three years of my life wrapped up in a virtual world where I could be someone else, but with WoW its not just in the virtual world that you’re someone else, there’s a large collection of live people elsewhere that view you as someone else. This is the danger of the MMORPG.

I wasn’t just a hero of Azeroth, slaying monsters, getting praise and wearing phat loot, to a large number of human beings I was someone else. I was the “tank”, the leader, the man who made all of out exploits possible. I would log into Skype or Ventrilo and they would greet me, not as Chad Daring, but as “Rockefeller” my former handle.

While we all knew that it was other human beings behind the screen on the other side of the mic, we subconsciously drowned that fact out. We tricked ourselves into believing they were these heroes that went by their own distinct handles, because by accepting them that way, we could fool ourselves into believing that WE were that way.

I quit WoW cold turkey. I didn’t try to toggle it back and pace myself, allowing an allotted amount of play time per week. You really can’t . The game requires devotion. This is the second VR snare. In order to succeed you must dedicated many hours, like a real life requires. If you wish to be successful at your job, fuck beautiful women, and have nice things, you must put in many hours of work. The same went for a successful dungeon diver in WoW. To be the best geared and thereby the strongest most capable warrior you had to dedicate time. This made it feel like more then a game. It was an achievement.

The third snare is price. Games like WoW are relatively cheap, compared the costs that come with normal life. A good night out I’ll only spend $20, for one night. Compared to WoWs monthly fee of only $15, you see how someone with limited funds could be drawn to it. The other unlisted price that I mentioned before is time. You pay for the game with precious precious time. To play it well you must pay in many hours PER DAY. If you fail to do this the stimulant will fail, and you’ll find yourself unhappy and unfulfilled.

Since my addiction my life has been better. I’ve become healthier, leaner, happier, more successful, and more active. I could’ve achieved some of these things during my addiction, but not all.

I do miss it from time to time. I even tried to pick the habit back up, forcing it into my brain, but I couldn’t. The bind it had on me was gone. I had not only removed it from my life, but I inoculated myself against future addictions and infections.

rtyecript August 23, 2011 at 5:29 am

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Commander Shepard August 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Great blog entry. I believe VR addiction to be one of the greatest problems facing young people today. I wasted nearly all of my youth on it. I wish I could get that time back and put it into something productive. I never really enjoyed escaping my life. I really just wanted my life to get better. I could have made it better with hard work but I took the easy way out. I take some solace in knowing that my generation was the first to grow up with all this stuff. We’re part of a social experiment. Unfortunately this “experiment” is more destructive than drugs or alcohol. VR is cheap, accessible, legal, and socially acceptable.

I tried looking up books on VR addiction and only found one. Can you believe that? One! Hardly anyone is paying attention to this trend, where as in Asia it’s viewed as major public health emergency.

Ultimately though VR addiction is a symptom and not the cause. It’s easy to understand why so many embrace it. In VR nobody judges you on your appearance, it doesn’t matter who your parents are, it doesn’t matter what your socio-economic background is, everything is based on merit, good and evil is easily defined, men can be men, and not vilified for embracing who they are, etc.

Thankfully since discovering sites like yours through the “manosphere” things are improving. I have a long way to go but I’m grateful everyday for the work guys like you are doing, Frost. It really turned my life around.

Frost August 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

Yeah man, it’s a huge problem. Biggest of our generation. Even for people who aren’t completely addicted, ie those leading pretty typical lives, people’s attention spans and ability to focus are completely shot.

I’d love to hear your story, if you’d like to share it, either as a comment or an email to freedomfrost25 at gmail dot com.

imnobody August 21, 2011 at 6:37 am

Would you include reading books in virtual reality? Or reading blogs like yours? I’m curious about where you draw the line.

Frost August 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

Depends on the books. Sci-fi, fantasy = VR. Blogs about how to improve your real life, not VR.

But that kind of leads to a caveat to this post. VR in small, controlled doses isn’t the worst thing in the world. I read a bit of fiction, and while most of it is only semi-VR in the sense that it’s “thoughtful” fiction that (imo) makes me a smarter, wiser person, it’s still a distraction. I also play a small amount of video games, and watch movies more than never.

Brooklyn August 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm

“Have you ever lost a friend to VR? Are you a current or recovering VR addict? If so, please share your experience in the comments (anonymously, if you prefer).”

I can’t really say that I have a horrible VR problem where TV and Internet eat all of my time outside of work. Still its something that I’m trying to reduce regardless just because its not healthy. (I don’t really play video games; last time I owned a machine, it was the original Nintendo…) Life is meant to be lived, not spent watching other people live. My solution to dealing with VR issues such as TV and the Internet is to focus on the 80/20 rule. (Actually its a great rule to apply to everything. If I get things going the way I want 80 percent of the time then I’m not going to stress out over the remaining 20 percent. Perfection is impossible.)

With TV the answer for me was to reduce it little by little. I stopped turning it on anytime before 7pm (except in emergencies like snow storms and such); after that I started whittling down the available channels until I reached the point where I have mostly two or three shows I enjoy once a week plus DVDs if I’m really in the mood for something more.

As for the Internet, my experience over the years has been that the biggest time sinks are politics and porn. With politics I don’t think you should be uninformed but its mostly out of your control so there’s no point to get worked up about it. How much input did you personally have when Congress had all that drama a couple of weeks back? Exactly. I just cut that crap out to two or three sites in my RSS feed and thats it.

As for porn, I’m not saying its something to eliminate entirely if you don’t want to but putting aside everything else, it just eats up time that could be spent being around real women. Most of life is about location; if you’re home looking for the perfect clip then you’re in the wrong location to meet anyone. The ultimate solution here is to get yourself some actual companionship but if you’re in a dry spell (hey, it does happen) then I’d say the best thing is to be aware of the time you’re spending. Put a clock dead in front of you and once you begin to realize how much time this is eating, your interest will shift to getting yourself away from the computer and out with real people.

(The worst thing about porn is that you know its a waste; after sex you can still feel relaxed and like your mind is in the sky, after porn you feel kind of strung out and disappointed because the illusion is revealed as just that. That said, I should say that there is a difference between spending all your time watching porn and occasionally enjoying and admiring female beauty while online. I think this http://theracerx.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/i-love-feminine-beauty/ says it best. Still even with that distinction reality always beats fantasy. Its always better to go out and admire real beauty than sit at home in front of the computer.)

leonardo August 16, 2011 at 8:54 am

pseudo-reality can be just as addicting and wheel-spinning. like getting drunk. like spending all of your real-world time thinking about and executing “game.”

Frost August 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

I know you’re just trying to be a dick, but I do agree that getting mindlessly drunk for it’s own sake is only slightly less of a VR diversion than video games.

As for learning game, it’s an extremely broad and useful skill, it’s fun to practice, and the payoff is something that no amount of money can buy – effectively unlimited sexual options.

I have a buddy who plays guitar a few hours a day. Kid’s a phenom. Is he “addicted?” Am I addicted to writing?

Most people who spend a significant amount of time learning/practicing game fall under one of two categories: 1) Happy, successful men refining their ability to attract women in a way that makes them come across as social and fun, and 2) Ex-losers trying to do #1, but coming up short for the moment and occasionally looking stupid because they take social risks that don’t workout. Sure, they wouldn’t ever have those embarrassing awkward moments if they never put themselves out there, but is that any way to live?

Cheers,

Frost

leonardo August 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm

@Frost,

i had a feeling you would misunderstand me. not a problem though. having unlimited ass will have the net effect of turning you into a retard. game should be done for a brief period in youth. after that you will become a permanent frat boy. i am not married so i do pick up some ass, but i don’t spend too much time on game. i used to, but you need to grow up some time. getting ass is not done so much out of necessity as it is out of fashion. pop-culture told you you need ass or you are a “loser.” you even used the word they taught you in your above response. what exactly are you “losing?”

i really didn’t want to lecture you but it comes across that way anyway i guess. any mild criticism leads inevitably to taking it to extremes, ie, if you don’t promote this then you want me to be monk. yeah, yeah, i know the score.

Rowan August 16, 2011 at 6:23 am

Great insight Frost.

I used to be jacked in, but I didn’t enjoy one minute of it really. The joy I experienced was virtual. I don’t believe the stimuli you get from electronic entertainment is the same as the real action. Watching friends was a dull imitation of the real thing, a numb soft slightly warm feeling of contentment. When I socialise with my real friends I feel strong flowing and CHANGING emotions, sometimes I get angry, sometimes I’m nervous, sometimes I react to things differently depending upon my mood, hunger, fatigue and so on. The experience is not consistent. Watching friends is always the same, it’s McSocialising in my book.

As for porn? It brings relief, nothing more. Ever woken up next to your girlfriend with morning wood and full of energy Frost? I have. Your testosterone surges, your strength doubles and while having sex you feel like a Norse God. Porn is dull and consistent, McPorn, the same every time. Humans and reality bring variety.

Writing isn’t my thing, but you get the gist.

Frost August 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

Life > fake life, indeed.

THe problem is that fake life is going to get better and better at giving you those emotions and experiences and morning wood, as technology advances.

Glad to hear you’ve unplugged successfully.

Cheers,

Frost

~E August 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm

I’m currently in the throws of VR addiction. I play World of Warcraft and Rift, and I download and watch an insane amount of TV every week through Netflix and torrents. 5 years ago I was working 4 days a week, 14 hour shifts which gave me three days a week to play and have fun. I was in a softball league with friends, went bowling, annual white water rafting trips, was married, going to the beach, and playing in local bands (bass, tuba, and flute like a boss).

I ruptured 3 disks in my back at work and spent the last 5 years stuck in a chair because of pain and immobility (had to walk with a cane). I had surgery last year and other than muscle weakness in my left leg due to nerve damage (permanent sadly), I’m back to normal but can’t break my routine. I’ll start going for nightly walks, and I’ll half-heartedly look for work (I can’t get cleared medically for my old job, so I have to look for a new career) but I lose focus and motivation. Wife left me right before I finally got surgery, so there’s some mild depression that I just can’t shake.

I know it’s there, I know what I need to do about it, but I still wake up in the morning, climb into my computer chair, and waste the day away until I collapse back into bed. I’m finding it difficult to restart a life that stalled in my early 30’s; find a new career, find a way to trust women, and find a way to shed the weight gain from years of forced slovenliness.

Chrome August 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Start doing one thing at a time. You know that your life will look drastically different if you pledge yourself to improving it. Such a huge change may seem scary. Start with small steps like getting our, reading more books, starting to exercise. Once there, it’s much easier to continue onto bigger things.
Good luck.

Frost August 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

That’s a tough story man.

But you’re in your mid-thirties, your back is healed, and you’re smart enough to understand your situation. You really do have an entire life ahead of you, if you choose to live it.

I’ve gone through depressive phases in my life too where I’ve felt pretty much exactly how you describe it – although never as a result of as much adversity as you’ve been through, so take my advice with the caveat that kicking your own ass out of this rut will take 10x the willpower I had to drawn on. Here’s what I recommend:

1) Make as many small changes to your routines as possible. I mean tiny, tiny, unimportant things. Eat a different breakfast, re-arrange your furniture, try a different walking route. Ask a stranger for the time at the mall. Just start doing as many different things as you can, and don’t feel ashamed that they’re small things.

2) Start exercising and eating better. Just do one push up today. Literally, one. Work up from that. Taking care of yourself instills pride, and will flood your body with the energy and hormones you need to make other changes.

3) Start a blog. One man’s journey from X to Y or something like that. I’d definitely read it, and you might wind up inspiring some of the literally millions of American men in similar situations.

4) Get some new video games. World of warcraft-type games are designed to be a second life, or in a lot of people’s cases, a life substitute. Until you’re ready to give up gaming altogether, pick up a few games that are much easier to play for a while, and then put down.

5) Once you’ve got a fitness program together, you’ve broken the VR addiction, and you’re ready to start working on other aspects of your life… then you can look for work, think about meeting women and maybe starting a new relationship, and basically doing whatever the hell you want for the next 40-60 years of your life.

Good luck man, keep me updated on how you’re doing either via comments (I don’t mind if they’re off topic ona given post) or through email.

Cheers,

Frost

~E August 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve decided to run with your idea of starting a blog. Hopefully, vetting my life in a public way will give me the incentive that I’ve been lacking. Once I get something posted I’ll link it.

NomadicNeill August 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Completely agree. I’ve been a victim of this and chose to cut out stuff that doesn’t serve me.

I spent up to the age of 17 playing video games, which in a way stunted my social skills but on the other hand made me more comfortable with technology than my pears. I started playing guitar and that gave me a lot of the enjoyment that I previously got from games. So it was a like for like replacement and I never went back.

But I still waste time on other useless activities. For example, I sometimes catch myself on sites like aintitcoolnews.com (movie previews and reviews) even though I rarely go to the cinema (like twice a year). Completely pointless, and there are other similar things I find myself doing.

Saying that, I don’t know if it’s useful or desirable to be 100% productive all the time, I’m think we all need to be idle from time to time to let our brains absorb all the new stuff we’re learning.

Maybe I’ll try an experiment and have a day or week where every waking moment is spent doing something productive.

Frost August 16, 2011 at 9:14 am

I agree. You strike me as someone in the top 1-5% of people “living” their lives, so why stress about a very small amount of wasted time? I spend a few hours a week playing one video game, and while 90% of my internet time is spent learning interesting and useful new things, I can’t say I haven’t watched several hours of fat people falling down/parkour/animal fights/etc on youtube.

Honestly, when I started writing this post, I had intended for the title to be “You’re not a Robot” or something and for it to be about how it’s OK to have a few stupid hobbies, as long as you’ve got the rest of your shit together. Somehow it became the one you read.

Cheers,

Frost

Chrome August 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm

This is very true. The worst thing is, not many people are even aware of this problem. I’m a bit younger than you are, I had more access to games and the Internet and I had this VR addiction problem a few years.
Then I started cutting it back by doing awesome stuff but only recently have I cut out major time wasters and reorganized my time online using the 80/20 principle – playing the few games and reading the few blogs that give me the majority of fun and information. So far, so good.

Keep up the good work, man.

Frost August 16, 2011 at 9:08 am

Congrats man. Glad to see I made the short list.

Adam Isom August 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Brilliant! I love this!
It hits EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.
This post reminds me of Ryan Holiday’s A False Sense, one of his best posts (also, he’s my favorite blogger).

Frost August 16, 2011 at 9:08 am

Ryan Holiday is the man, and yeah that is a great post.

{ 7 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: