This is the exact moment, I realised I had once again ruined my own life by falling in love with a fictional character;
This crushing realisation that I had just sold my soul and freedom to a person that doesn’t even exist, occurred approximately fifteen minutes into the first episode of a show I have just started watching.
The latest series to come along and trample all over my academic career, social life and general ability to function is Attack on Titan (or, Shingeki no Kyojin). If you follow me on Twitter, this won’t be news to you as I have a tendency to livetweet every time an episode sees me emotionally crumble, which, apparently, happens a lot.
The thing is – I have a problem.
I get way too emotionally invested in fictional worlds and characters and their lives to the point that I become entirely consumed by them. This then seriously hinders my ability to function, due to the fact that it’s pretty hard to give a shit about your own relatively boring, average life when there are Titans breaching Wall Rose and Eren is humanity’s only hope but that’s so much pressure and he’s Just A Boy and how are he and his friends going to cope???
I’m a pretty emotional person anyway; my friends only have to say one, mildly nice thing to me and I will start crying. But it makes sense to care about real people. What doesn’t make sense is that, after reading The Book Thief I cried for approximately three hours straight, or the fact that I was so swallowed up by the world of Death Note that I read the entire manga series in two days, or the fact that I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them in the cinema seven times. My bank literally blocked my card because they found the number of times I had gone to the cinema in a week “suspicious”.
It’s actually pretty exhausting getting this emotionally involved, especially when your favourite TV programmes generally involve vast amounts of unpredictable death. (Hello: Game of Thrones)
Everyone has various issues and shitty things they have to deal with in their every day lives, and escapism is one of the most popular reasons we watch or read these kinds of series. And there is nothing wrong with that; we all need the chance to get out of Real Life for a while and immerse ourselves in a totally fictional world. The problem arises when you start using these fictional worlds and lives to avoid having to live your own life.
For me, I have a lot of problems around feeling alone. When my anxiety flares up all I can think is that everyone hates me, no matter how illogical that may be. I become entirely convinced by it, which results in me isolating myself from the rest of the world. So, I turn to fiction as a form of escapism from those feelings, but I guess also to kind of feel part of something… Like, being part of a cool Titan-killing gang, or being a student at Hogwarts, or cycling alongside my friends ready to save Will from the upside-down world. And I guess, in some way, this is just my brain looking to satisfy my need for social interaction without actually socially interacting with anyone.
But, I then end up getting so involved in the fiction that I
A) Further remove myself from real life and the people I should be turning to to fulfill my need for human contact, and
B) then become weirdly envious of these fictional characters’ lives and friendships so that I would rather be them than be me, which makes no fucking sense because Who wants to live in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where half of your family have died and every single day is a battle for survival?
These combine to form a pretty toxic cycle, because rather than focusing on wanting to be someone else that isn’t even real, I should be focusing on me and improving my own life. Maybe then I’d be productive about maintaining friendships and I’d actually remember to text people back for once.
It all seems kind of sad, now that I write it out. But I’m pretty sure, from talking to other people about this, that I’m not the only one. There have also been endless studies on how this generation have a lot of problems with communication because of the way we grew up with technology and social media, and I’m sure someone has a scientific reason for why I would literally lay down my life for Eren Jaeger.
But it doesn’t have to be bad. There are so many amazing things to come out of fiction and the internet. Fandoms, for example, although can often get a bad rep, are pretty amazing. Strangers are brought together by their shared love of a series through social media where they can chat endlessly about the characters and plot theories, while conventions provide safe environments for people to meet up in person. The internet enables people across the world to connect with each other, just through the fact that they both are massive fans of a particular show. And in that way, viewing and reading both become social activities. I don’t know about you, but I cannot watch an episode of Sherlock without live shit-posting the entire thing and then reblogging 47 gifs and memes of the episode after.
Besides, I don’t really see this cycle ending any time soon. I still have 22 episodes of Attack on Titan to watch before I inevitably find another fictional universe to immerse myself in and ruin my life all over again.
So, what about you guys? Are you watching or reading anything at the moment that has you completely hooked? Feel free to hit me up with recommendations of your favourite shows, because I’m ready to dedicate my life to yet another world-saving crew of angsty teens.
Alternatively, please tell me you also have issues with knowing where the lines of emotional involvement are and that this post didn’t just make me seem like some really sad, weird nerd that needs to get over this thing for Japanese anime boys.
As always, thanks for reading!