Log on and drift off - who needs reality anyway?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 12:00am

Feeling got at? Perhaps your other half just filed for divorce or perhaps a colleague just shot you a look and hissed a remark.

Either way, thanks to progress you no longer need to fall prey to that kind of abuse. You can erase yourself from the bustle of Asia's world city through a strategy called 'egocasting'.

The word means becoming attached to absorbing technologies, such as the iPod. In a classic egocasting scenario, you plug your ears with your headphones, switch off and sashay through the streets, grooving to whatever tune shuffles into the space left by the last.

While you are out, TiVo, your 'brain behind the box', prepares the ground for when you come home. It automatically finds and digitally records up to 140 hours of programming you want: your favourite show, every John Woo movie, home improvement programmes, Futurama, South Park - whatever piques your interest or has you hooked. You can then watch the footage in slo-mo, should you wish to exercise that degree of control.

Should you be wild enough to watch TV instead of TiVo, you will depend on that control freak's wand, the universal remote. If a pop show diva sings flat or the pain on the face of some drama victim gets too much, you just flip and flick until you find content that makes you feel comfortable.

In a journal of technology and society called The New Atlantis, cultural commentator Christine Rosen recently slammed the evasion tactic. Our increasing dependence on devices that remove us from the world and its inconvenience sucks, according to Ms Rosen.

'By giving us the illusion of perfect control, these technologies risk making us incapable of ever being surprised,' she warns in the essay. 'They encourage not the cultivation of taste but the numbing repetition of fetish.'

Ms Rosen's diatribe sounds noble. What is the point of living in a world without challenge? Overcoming hurdles and knocks is what gives life meaning, you could argue.

That said, even if you instinctively avoid pain and adopt an armada of distracting inventions, you may well experience more stress than you can handle. Think how wobbly you sometimes feel about getting through the day ahead when you wake up in the morning.

Embracing reality does not make sense. In her play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, satirist Jane Wagner described reality as 'the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it'.

Writer Henry Miller, author of Tropic Of Cancer, was just as downbeat. 'Reality is that which is sprouting all the time out of death and disintegration,' he said.

Gallic grouch Louis-Ferdinand Celine dismissed it altogether, saying: 'To hell with reality!'

The message is clear: reality is public enemy No1. So why should we not use every tech tool of escape at our disposal? Log on and tune out.