Are You Living a Digital Life Instead of a Real One?
I grew up playing video games.
At 3 years old, I was leaping chasms on Atari’s Pitfall and crushing goombas as Super Mario on the Nintendo.
By 6, I was using DOS to kill Lemmings, shooting Cyberdemons in Doom, and getting STDs in Leisure Suit Larry.
I actually can’t believe some of the shit my parents let me play.
I had just about every console created up until 2005. Yes, that includes the Sega CD, Sega Saturn, and Gameboy Advance.
I was also a PC game addict. I played professionally in Counter-Strike tournaments around the US. I loved gaming so much I ran a successful gaming blog for a few years.
I don’t regret those times in my life. They helped build my knowledge and passion for technology. I made new friends in those communities and shared some great times with real friends hanging out on the couch. I even dated a model who played Counter-Strike, as ridiculous as that sounds.
But I do know that if I didn’t eventually sacrifice some of my gaming, I wouldn’t have built the life I’m so passionate about today. And as much as it pains me to say this, I believe our growing dependence on media and entertainment is preventing us from truly living.
I know I probably sound like the crabby adult who told you video games and TV were a waste of time, rotting your mind. Trust me, I hate that assessment just as much as you do.
I’m not here to be your authority or make you feel shameful about catching up on your favorite Netflix show. Because everyone needs their relaxation time to decompress and escape.
Honestly, I’ll probably fire up my HTC Vive for a quick round of boxing after this.
But my point is that our time is limited. Yet I’m increasingly seeing everyone’s free time being consumed by digital entertainment.
We check our phones incessantly. We scroll through never-ending social media feeds.We HAVE to maintain our Snapchat streaks. We refresh Reddit constantly. We watch YouTube video after YouTube video and Twitch streams for hours.
We have video games and other media of every genre on every device possible. Just think: home consoles, handheld consoles, digital media players (like Fire TV / Apple TV), desktop computers, laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, and virtual reality headsets.
Media companies throw billions of dollars into research to see how every little tweak gets you downloading more, watching more, and coming back for more. They create and feed habits that literally get you addicted to their content.
You think that random spurt of Instagram likes was luck?
So with all that, how can you get anything productive done? Because I’m sure deep down, there’s a lot you still want to accomplish that you’ve been putting off…
You want to be more social and develop your abilities to connect with people. You want to meet and date more women. You want to get a better job or build a business. You want to make meaningful real-world friendships. You want to be physically healthy. You want to explore the world and gain new perspectives.
The to-do list is endless. And from one nerd to another, I’m telling you that digital entertainment is not going to bring you long-term happiness.
Digital entertainment satiates you with a false sense of personal fulfillment.
It rewards you with immediate fun and feedback with very little effort. So you get a nice hit of dopamine that quickly fades. But it doesn’t stay for long and then you’re left chasing the next emotional high.
I know that when I think back to my memories with entertainment, so much is a blur.
Storylines, characters, and games all blend together. When I’ve rewatched a TV series, I remember so little of it. And I’ve rarely thought about the thousands of hours of Counter-Strike I put in.
It’s rare that I ever feel like I truly grew as a person from my time spent devouring mindless media.
But the experiences I do remember always involved people or an adventure outside the home.
I remember LAN parties and tournaments with friends and partying in hotels afterwards. I loved watching my nephew show me his Scratch programming projects and him experiencing VR for the first time. And enjoying the Patriots in Super Bowls with my dad are some of the most important moments I will never forget.
And that’s what I’m getting at…
I bet when you think about your most cherished experiences in life (whether they involved media or not) they were with people you cared about and usually took place outside of your home.
That’s how you need to start thinking for a well-balanced life.
On the media front, you can still binge out on the next popular Amazon series. I would just start supplementing some of your solo time by enjoying it with other people.
Attend a gaming convention or casual tournament. Play a video game with your younger sibling. Host a VR party or movie night with friends (and tell them to invite their friends). Go to a board game cafe. Head to an arcade for a second date.
All around though, if you’re someone who knows they’re held back by in real world by the digital world…
You’re going to have to make sacrifices.
You’re going to have to find ways to cut your media consumption. Then replace that time by investing in meaningful connections and real world experiences.
Because there are just not enough hours in the day to indulge in everything. And whether you admit it or not, the digital addiction affects you negatively in some way.
It’s taking your focus away from important responsibilities. It’s making you miss out on life-changing moments and social interactions. It’s holding you back from developing strong interpersonal skills.
Even anecdotally, I can tell you that the people I know who game the most (friends and clients) almost always struggle socially in the real world.
People interviewed on their deathbed always say they wished they spent more time with the people they cared about and experienced life more fully.
So start holding yourself accountable to minimize your media consumption:
- Get a browser plugin that limits your access to access to certain media sites.
- Invite your friends you haven’t seen in a while to a dinner party right now.
- Put a designated “off-the-grid time” in your calendar every week.
- Plan out a rustic weekend family trip with limited cellular service.
- Let someone you trust borrow your game console for the next month.
- Replace a night in with an event you found online and set reminders to show up.
You will always remember the time you randomly said hi to that girl who became your wife. I know I do. A few of my friends have similar stories with their spouses, too.
You’re never going to look back 20 years from now and say, “I wish I spent more time grinding for that complete armor set.”