Am I a man dreaming of being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of being a man?
Spending a long time in VR can be a very absorbing process. So much so, that coming back down to Base Realitytm can be a jolt, causing disillusionment and even confusion. We’ll look at the main causes and what you can do to get a handle on your situation.
What Causes VR Dislocation?
Coming back to broadcast depth can take a while; your eyes and vestibular system might take time to adjust and there’s a degree of ‘avatardiness’ that is your mind’s way of saying “I’m not sure what to believe anymore”. Are you being brainwashed? Is your mind being destroyed by virtual reality? In a word, no. At least, probably not. There are simpler explanations:
VR is Awesome
Effective VR operates at a subconscious level. It’s overriding your senses as well as your critical faculty to convince your mind that it is in another place entirely. Taking your HMD off and then expecting your mind to just realise it was all a game is really quite similar to the effect of putting the HMD on in the first place. It needs time to adjust, and unless you take steps to prove it to yourself, then your mind is going to be have to sift through the available information.
You want to believe
Again, VR is awesome! Who wouldn’t rather be a dragon-riding, zombie splattering, race-car driving, alien space man than, well..you? (no offence) Life is a bit.. samey. VR is anything you want, whenever you want it! What’s not to like? Red Dwarf covered this well in ‘Better Than Life’ (both the book and episode are fantastic). It’s quite natural for some people to want to plug in their catheter and drip and go be someone else. VR doesn’t need to be that realistic, it just needs to be different. We welcome it and if it’s more enjoyable than your 9-5 then it’s going to be hard to let go.
Unless you’re incredibly rich and have a full-time nanny then spending more than a few hours a day ‘virtually present’ is probably not a good idea. Make sure that doesn’t happen by accident by following these simple suggestions.
Step 1: Figuring out if you’re really in Base Realitytm
Before you put on your HMD, it’s wise to do one or more of the following checks, just to make sure you’re not already in a virtual environment – Getting into a 2nd level virtual reality when you think you’re in Base Reality is a sure fire way of getting totally lost in the metaverse.
Spin your top
OK, so that might not be the best way to do it, but having something secret you keep safe can be a focal point for your mind as it deals with the disjointed feeling of returning to the real world. Something that won’t turn up in a VR-modeled world is the kind of thing you’re aiming for. It can be an object, experience or effect, even. Anything you’re sure would be impossible or improbable to reproduce virtually.
Look for detail in the distance.
Even the high-end military hardware can’t deliver high-resolution texture or models in a small area of the display, so try analysing the details at distance and be aware of the pixel density (reality has a retina screen). While there are mutterings about drawing high-detail areas directly in front of the retina, this isn’t likely to hit until eye-tracking has been implemented and that is generations away from consumer products*.
*If you think you might be reading this in 2025, then ignore this paragraph.
Rub your eyes
If you’re wearing an HMD, then you won’t be able to touch your eyes. Giving them a gentle rub (while closed, obviously) will probably help them adjust as well as letting you know you’re not wearing an HMD*.
*Unless this is 2025, in which case this entire article is pretty much pointless as you’re probably suspended in a vat of nutri-gel anyway.
Step 2: Dealing with the fact you’re back in Base Reality
Have a cup of tea
You can’t eat or drink virtual things and if you’ve been under for a while, you might be dehydrated or hungry, so top up. There’s no way to replicate this sensation short of a spinal tap, so the refreshing feeling you get is a good indicator of base normality. Biscuits can also help.
Phone a friend
Call someone and tell them about your experience. Friends are hard to fake and real-time general AI won’t be around for decades anyway. A real conversation will marshall your mental resources better than sitting there wondering WTF just happened.
Take a break
As mentioned above, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Yeah, that sucks, but you should be used to it by now. Have at least one night a week where you don’t leave Base Reality. Give yourself a chance to be grounded and make sure you do something fun! See family and friends, remind yourself that real life can be a refreshingly high-def change of scenery.
Do you have any tips that work for you? Let us know in the comments below.