The World of Misinformation and Escapism

In psychology, escapism is when a person routinely uses an activity or behavior to escape life’s realities. It is a way of distracting the mind. Examples include social media, substance use, or playing games to avoid thinking about or facing something else, such as a relationship conflict or a stressful assignment deadline. Escapism and social media overuse are likely to become diagnosable disorders in the future since in many ways they replace positive coping mechanisms with real-world stressors. Flipping through social media feeds or binge-watching an entire season of a television show seems to be a new normal. Inherently social media platforms and forms of escapism are not bad, but anything done excessively can lead to negative consequences. For a man like Trump who has long relied on his loyal crowds and for validation and reassurance – any rally seems like an exercise in escapism.

The main thing is, the society Orwell portrays on 1984 has no real politics; it is just a system of lies and terror which has lost any raison d’etre besides self-perpetuation. And this situation is not all that dissimilar from what we observe two wars and deterioration of dialogue in 2024 election campaign in US. Many Americans, no doubt, can’t see a difference between the candidates. A declining faith in government has not been replaced by any new hope for opposition or reform. Whether or not the Constitution says we all participate in making decisions of government, the average citizen is helpless against the murky forces of economic powerhouses. This crisis of participation, a chief trait of the Orwellian world, has not occurred as a result of the natural, uninhibited growth of the state. This has been carefully engineered by the ruling minority of our society.

Written in 1932, Huxley’s dystopian novel describes a world that has been completely structured to allow humans to completely indulge themselves at every desire by using their new technological advances. Kids are conditioned and brainwashed from a young age to dislike things that stir up emotion: books, music, nature, art, religion, and long-term relationships with family and lovers. These relationships of lovers have been replaced with daily one-night stands or orgies. The world is run around a new drug called Soma. Whenever someone feels even slightly down, they can just take a hit of the drug and such emotions will disappear. The user becomes stoned and happy. In sum, the people of Brave New World are able to maintain peace at the cost of any strong emotions. They spend their time with meaninglessness and indulge their every biological urge. There are no benefits to avoidance.1

Why escapism is so good? Escapism provides a safe haven from the trials and tribulations of the real world. It allows individuals to temporarily detach from their problems, worries, and stressors, offering a much-needed respite. This temporary escape into a fictional universe can serve as a form of self-care, akin to a mental vacation. Any life change can lead to escapism, even if the change is positive. Life challenges and traumatic events can also lead to escapism. Feelings of sadness, fear, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, and lack of self-esteem can all increase the desire to escape. It was used by Sebastian Scherr of Texas A&M University and Kexin Wang of Zhejiang University in a paper that argued people mainly use TikTok so they can avoid doing something else. Tik Tok is an online form of escapism. Your escapism can be either a healthy form of self-care or a potentially dangerous habit that interferes with your daily life.

There are many self-care activities that allow us to take momentary breaks when needed and then return to our current circumstances feeling more refreshed. Escapism becomes harmful when it becomes avoidance, and it can involve partaking in unhealthy activities or even healthy ones in excess. Fantasizing about running away, or getting close to actually doing so, is perhaps more common than you may think. At its core, running away is a means to escape our current world – a world that isn’t serving us the way we desire. Maybe you feel stuck or bored and are craving a renewed sense of vigor. Understanding escapism involves delving into the psychological triggers that compel individuals to seek refuge in activities or thoughts that distance them from their current realities. At its core, escapism is often a response to stress, anxiety, or dissatisfaction with one’s life circumstances.

There has always been something of this unreality about Trump’s behavior in the presidency. From the very beginning, it has seemed that Trump almost fully inhabits a boorish, narcissistic psychodrama playing in his head. Through the power of his personality and celebrity, he has been able to draw others into that fantasy world for decades, and through the power of the presidency he was able to project it onto the real world and draw yet more followers into it. Like so much of what Trump has wrought, the attack on the Capitol had the feel of fiction, and even many of the people involved seemed to be playing out a fantasy in their heads, living in a world in which sinister forces had stolen the election from their lion-hearted hero and they had come to set things straight by a show of strength. It’s all a lie, every part of it, yet the actions taken by the crowd were very real, and very dangerous.

The curious power and appeal of Trump’s conspiracism is deeply intertwined with its irresponsibility. How President Donald Trump handled the risk of coronavirus infection was irresponsible – for example, during a global pandemic, thousands came out shoulder-to-shoulder in a windowless warehouse rally – exacerbated the pandemic that killed more than 200,000 people in the United States. In addition, President Biden says it was ‘irresponsible’ for Trump to keep classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. If Trumpism means anything, it would seem to mean this distinct kind of irresponsibility. It’s not the same as populism – which always risks entanglements with demagogues but also has legitimate concerns and priorities that deserve to be heard and should not be confused with one man’s failings. It’s not any particular policy agenda or set of reforms, Trumpism is a style, an ethic that amounts to a dangerous and highly toxic irresponsibility.2

Life is generally full of stress, heart break, mental health difficulties and challenging emotional experiences. Taking a step back from reality is a very effective way of experiencing a few moments of respite to help cope with life’s hardships. During economic downturns or political instability, people may collectively attempt to find relief from reality, turn to entertainment or religion as a form of escape. Republican Donald Trump has launched his general election campaign not merely rewriting the history of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, but positioning the violent siege and its failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election as a cornerstone of his bid to return to the White House. The coming eight months also promise to be a battle of messaging, during which Biden and his surrogates will do their best to stress the strong economic numbers that have characterized the past year, and to remind voters why Trump left office with the highest final disapproval rating of any president since the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Imagined reality is whatever you imagine it to be. It is annoyingly abstract I know. That is the thing most people don’t realize or have a hard time processing; our reality is only what we imagine. We create the world we live in. In most instances, escapism isn’t harmful. Escapism, like anything else, can go too far. It can cause problems at work, damage personal relationships, and maybe even cut yourself off from normal social circles. It’s important to evaluate whether your escapism is a healthy form of self-care or a potentially dangerous habit. The problem occurs when we escape a little too often for a little too long, or when escaping interferes with our daily life. Focus on being mindful and present in your daily life rather than letting your thoughts drift mindlessly. Switching up your routine, distracting yourself, practicing mindful meditation, and allowing yourself regular breaks can keep you from obsessively fantasizing about things.

The 2024 Republican front-runner has a robust record of deploying misinformation and lies. Trump trades on something psychologists and political scientists have known for years – that people don’t necessarily make decisions based on facts. Trumpism is a form of escapism that follows the political ideologies associated with Donald Trump and his political base. The actions of Trump’s followers are embedded in a fantasy spun up by conspiracists, and especially the way in which the President of the United States took up his place in that fantasy world and sought to govern from within it. The curious power and appeal of Trump’s conspiracism is deeply intertwined with its irresponsibility. At its core is a form of self-pity. The president blames others for disrespecting and abusing him, and therefore refuses both to take ownership of his obligations and to face reality. Outside of escapism, misinformation and disinformation have always been part of human existence.3




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