I recently bought Virtual Reality for my PC, and there is a really strange side effect that I wanted to talk about. I have never heard this mentioned before, but it is a real thing, and although it is really amazing, it is also quite frightening… This is a longer read, but fascinating.
Similar to getting lost in a good movie at a theater, the resolution on my VR headset paired with motion tracked hand controllers and six dimensions of freedom to move around in – basically, the experience becomes so incredibly immersive that you begin to feel you are in a different place entirely. It’s incredible, and undoubtedly one of the greatest feelings I have had in my whole life.
Some people get motion sickness or dizzy, but that wasn’t my case. Instead I experienced strange lingering psychological issues AFTER taking off the headset… It began with slow onset feelings of depersonalization and dissociation that lasted a few hours after leaving VR. It’s hard to explain the sensation, and I might sound crazy saying it, but I felt like my body was not my own. I knew these were my arms and legs, but I didn’t feel like I had any connection to them. As I walked downstairs I felt as if I was floating. Time had stopped moving, or I had no sense of it passing. The dissociation was so strong that I thought I might actually be going insane. Reality itself began to seem like an illusion. I would hold my phone in my hand and my fingers seemed to go through it rather than hold onto it. Worst of all, I knew I was out of virtual reality, but I had actual thoughts that perhaps reality itself is virtual, everything is fake, and I am stuck inside of it.
I spoke to the VR community and a majority of them said they had some of these feelings, to an extent. I must had been more sensitive to it. Everyone said it only happened for a week or two then the feeling never came back again. I wonder if it has to do with our brains having to get used to the idea of multiple realities, something very new to us in the tech world. Maybe some kind of neural plasticity remapping so that our brains can process the mechanics of going into a new type of perception. I’m not sure. What I do know is it was a very weird feeling, very frightening, but also incredibly interesting as a life experience.
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