Resist Virtual Reality Addiction

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).