It’s no secret. The world is a tumultuous place right now. What with looming wars, wild weather, pandemics, and pestilence, it feels like a new Chapter of Revelation is unveiled on the daily.
It’s no wonder people are looking for a way to escape reality.
Enter the Metaverse. Literally, or should I say, virtually.
Don your headset and suddenly, you ain’t in Kansas anymore, or even your loungeroom. You are, quite literally, the centre of the Metaverse.
Setup your avatar and choose your preferred eyebrows, skin tone with optional wrinkles, clothes, and makeup. Then you’re ready to take on the (virtual) world. 360 degree cameras follow your every move through the Metaverse, purchasing NFTs (‘Non-Fungible Tokens.’ Yes, really), conducting meetings, socialising, going on dates and playing games.
The Metaverse is still a work in progress (aren’t we all) but so far, the only thing stopping users from inhabiting it permanently, is the sore eyes and headaches that inevitably accompany long-term headset use.
Spend too long in an alternate reality, and life on earth can seem, well, ‘meh.’ ‘
The Effect of a Blockbuster Fantasy World
Avatar was the blockbuster movie of 2009, taking over $1billion at the box office. And its sequel is set to be the blockbuster movie of 2022.
It takes viewers on an epic journey to Pandora – a fantasy world inhabited by a tribe of blue aliens called the Na’vi. Thanks to stunning visual effects, extraordinary plants and animals are brought to life amongst a breathtaking imaginary landscape.
With the help of 3D glasses, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred, making it feel as though you’re actually sitting beneath the ‘Tree of Souls’ with the Na’vi tribe. But James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ had an unexpected effect on movie-goers.
After watching the movie, rather than relishing its cinematic escapism, many entered a state of depression.
Soon after its release, thousands of fans took to online forums, discussing ‘The Avatar Effect.’ One user wrote: ‘When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed grey. It just seems so meaningless.’
According to the Urban Dictionary, ‘Post Avatar Depression, also known as P.A.D. for short, is the case when a person after seeing the movie “Avatar” (By James Cameron) eventually realises that the world they live in sucks and that they will never be able to fly, jump or live like the Na’vi do on Pandora.’
P.A.D. sufferers longed for a utopian virtual world. They had stopped seeing the beauty, hidden in plain sight here in reality.
The Path to Appreciating Wonderful Reality
On ‘boring old’ Earth, there are 270,000 species of flowers, of too many colours to name, as well as around 10,000 species of birds and around 60,000 species of trees. You could spend your entire life exploring the wonders of creation on Earth and still die before encountering them all.
Psalm 46:8-10 says, ‘Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth… “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”’
In my book ‘The Simple Joy of Seeing God,’ I explore the science of gratitude and the spiritual impact of ‘renewing your mind.’ Seeing the world through fresh eyes and genuinely appreciating what you have is the secret to reversing the ‘Avatar Effect.’
After all, ‘You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.’ Matthew 5:8
How often we think, ‘If only I had her job…’ or ‘his house…’ or ‘their kids…’ then I’d be happy. The fact is that our happiness should never be determined by our ‘happenings,’ or our ‘imaginings,’ but instead by finding wholeness within and taking time to see the beauty around us.
As the old saying goes: ‘It’s not happy people who are grateful, it’s grateful people who are happy.’ If there’s something we can learn from sufferers of Post Avatar Depression, it’s that we shouldn’t let what we want, alter our view of what we have.
I may never smell the flowers on Pandora, or within the Metaverse but I’ve learnt that the flowers here on Earth are pretty special too, once I took the time to smell them.
About the Author: Annette is a writer and co-founder of Blue Box Media, along with her husband, Phil. They live in Brisbane with their two sons, Tyson & Jack.
Feature image: Avatar 2 Movie publicity