I've been trying to pin this sensation I've been feeling for some time now, and I think I'm experiencing a mild form of derealization - the sensation that the external reality is literally unreal. It's not a firm conviction (that would be a form of frank psychosis), but more of a soft sensation, like a weak haze that permeates everything.
I realized that this feeling, this experience, seems to be strongly tied to my increasing use of screens. I can basically track a linear, gradual increase in the strength of this sensation and the more I think about it, the more I realize it's tied to my increasing use of screens to experience reality. At work, I spend at least 75% of my time staring at a screen. On the bus, commuting, in between moments of conversation, in between sets at the gym, the screen is increasingly how I interface with reality. Because events on the screen are tied with real world outcomes (my finances, my evaluations, my contact with other people), maybe my subconscious has associated the screen with a true iteration of reality - and at the same time, it's inherently confusing to my brain, since another part of the subconscious actively rejects it as a representation of reality.
A synthetic product through and through, a pixellated screen is both real and unreal, a simulacrum of reality close enough to provide a vivid recreation of life, but just different enough to be perceived by your brain as unreal. I wonder if focusing our attention on these objects for hours at a time has a stultifying effect on our brains, numbing the experience of realness in our actual lives and bleeding over into our meatspace interactions.
I think it's something that's only going to get worse over time as we become increasingly integrated with various forms of portable computers - iWatches, contact lenses with HUD displays, holographic displays, and finally, VR technology and even direct brain-computer interfaces. I predict people will go on analog retreats where the wealthy can "enjoy" a "total immersion" experience devoid of any technology.
Speaking of which, that's something I need to do now.
Frank Yang did a great video on this, embedded below:
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis