“What’s Next?”: An Essay on the Dangers of Escapism

It’s a story that is much too common in our country and around the world. The abused child. Emotionally damaged, bodily bruised, and socially anxious. I can thank my mother for morphing me into all of these things. Like many abused children, escapism was my solution to the effects of abuse. While escapism took form in movies, books,etc. The age of social media has allowed escapism to become even more realistically powerful.

A quick hop on social media shows pictures of sunkissed models in Santorni, #girlboss interns at TeenVogue, and hippies backpacking through South America. These were the images that I consumed throughout my preteen and teen years. I’d create aspirational collections filled with all of the places I would travel to and the beautiful men that would accompany me. I’d create a list of the top colleges that I would apply to, almost everyday, and dream of the opportunities that would be afforded to me. It was these dreams which motivated me to spend an exorbitant amount of time immersed in academics or pursuing leadership extracurricularly and in my community. While I enjoyed both of these things, I now realize that I did not draw as much value as I could have for one simple fact: I was always aspiring towards something in the future.

Social media has created an outlet of escapism which is so satisfying, that it makes us hate our real-life presence. While I thought that these images were healing me through providing motivation, I now realize that they were making me hate my existence more and more. 

All of my hard work did pay off. I got into my dream school and am free from the abusive environment that was my childhood. But as I’ve settled into my new life, I’ve recognized that those feelings of discontent still linger. The euphoric excitement that I felt in May has been replaced with emptiness.

Instead of basking in my accomplishments, I’m left to wonder where my trip to Santorini is or when I’ll find the man who’ll stand beside me. Here lies the issue with aspirational social media influencers. The life that they craft is so perfect that it is unattainable. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the life I have now is spectacular. I’ve recognized my privilege, and instead of shying away from my abusive childhood, I’ve learned to acknowledge it and its influences on the person I am today. I’ve realized that no city, school, or persona should be idolized as one can find beauty in whatever circumstances one finds themselves in. To achieve that appreciation, we must stop looking towards something else, and reflect on the current state of things, because when you make an unattainable life, your ideal, you’ll be chasing it forever.

Written by: Jennifer Winslow