Escapism: A double-edged sword

Escapism: A double-edged sword

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else, maybe become your favourite character in a movie or video game, or an Instagram celebrity living it large in Dubai? Who hasn’t? We all have these fantasies that we like to drift off to when times get tough; these fantasies help us take hiatus from life’s challenges and sometimes motivate us to overcome life’s more demanding issues.

It’s impossible to think that the concept of escapism is inherently wrong when everyone partakes in it. The dictionary definition for escapism is “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.” It’s human nature to want to seek out a better life for yourself, so we attempt to fill ours with laughter and entertainment to help us achieve a seemingly better life, unaware when this entertainment is holding us back from improving ourselves. But we can’t ask if escapism is “bad” because it’s like asking if drinking water is “bad”: it entirely depends on whether you are parched or drowning. 

Allowing yourself to partake in escapism often isn’t an inherently negative trait to have; escapism can help us to find relief from our unpleasant realities if you find yourself overwhelmed by the products of your environment by seeking distraction and respite from these issues by seeking out entertainment can help you to properly face your challenges when you’re recharged.


Escapism can help you from burning out and becoming dulled from the exhaustivity of your problems. But the issue with escapism doesn’t come with partaking in it, but from attempting to ignore and escape from all of your concerns. That by becoming disillusioned and obtaining the mindsets that way by ignoring the issues, they will just magically disappear.

Escapism comes in many various forms to many different people, it’s easy to see that we’re not all Walter Mitty’s, drifting off to other worlds, but that doesn’t mean we don’t partake in acts of escapism. Just listening to music, reading a book or socialising with friends are often seen as the healthiest forms of escapism. However, of course, moderation is still an important factor, when you socialise with your friends and ignore your present duties, you are forgoing your life for one that seems brighter, away from the cruelty of our present.

Like all things, moderation becomes the critical element in allowing yourself to seek out escapism. Seeping into media and entertainment should be regarded the same way as drinking or overindulging yourself with unhealthy food. We must become more aware of our actions to be more mindful of what we’re doing to our mental health. We become alerted when we drink too much or overeat as there’s a clear and present change that will occur to our body’s physical health.

Since you don’t undergo any physical change when you become addicted to ignoring your problems, you can’t realise its effect on your mental health until it’s too late. Now more than ever, we rely upon quick forms of entertainment for escapism from the harsh realities of the modern world. When we lose the ability to seek escapism from travelling and socialising with friends, we are forced to take escapism from less effective methods like social media, Tik Tok, and binge television.

We know that we’re all living busy lives, but with Covid’s constant bad news, it seems that we’ve forgotten to be aware of the good in our lives; initially, we consumed entertainment to give us respite from the problems we experienced in our daily lives, but those now minor issues have been replaced with much bigger ones, and with it, I fear that more and more people will eventually get lost in acts of escapism.


Yesterday the people of Ireland woke up to 9 more long weeks of level 5 lockdown, and my heart goes out, imagining how these people reacted to this hard news; in a world of woe, can we really blame others for wanting to live in a seemingly better one?

We must always remember that there are some issues we have to face head-on. If we become more aware of when we indulge in escapism, we can see what problems make us the most uncomfortable, we consume escapist media to help us along, but when you choose to devote yourself to these avenues of escape over factors in your real life then it becomes a problem that needs solving when escapism becomes synonymous with unproductivity and procrastination, then you will need to change your outlook towards your use of escapist media.

I, of course, like anyone else, have devoted my time to acts of escapism to help me deal with the effects of constant lockdowns. I’ve fallen in love with genres of music. I virtually socialised and played online games with my friends. Just like my neighbours, I devoured Tiger King at the beginning of the pandemic, I sought out as much distraction from the fear Covid imposed on us, falling victim to the sirens call of these acts of escapism, with my college grades and overall mental well-being becoming negatively affected as a result.

I’ve since learned to moderate my personal acts of escapism. That by ignoring my problems, I know that they won’t just go away.

Sean Barrett
Sean Barrett

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