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Health and Sanity

Rashmi Vasudeva
Features writer on health, lifestyle and the Arts, digital marketing blogger, mother
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piqer: Rashmi Vasudeva
Saturday, 16 February 2019

Our Vicarious Lives: Are They As Delightful As They Seem?

I revisited Hidden Brain after a while and, as expected, it did not disappoint. Its latest episode on how all of us are getting more comfortable with the idea of living and experiencing a large part of our lives through others is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Introducing the topic, the inimitable host Shankar Vedantam has this to say:

"It has never been so easy to bring the world into our living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms. And the world that enters our lives has never looked better. You can get the ocean without the seaweed and sunsets without clouds. You can scale a rock face without the fear of a fall. You can experience love without the risk of rejection."

How true it rings! These 'other' lives we have all come to inhabit—whether consciously or not—are often proving to be more satisfying and exciting than our actual lives. More importantly, acceptability of leading such multiple lives has increased exponentially.

The podcast throws up many curious examples of such vicarious living. For instance, there apparently is an internet game, 'Mukbang', that originated in South Korea. In the game, people binge watch other people binge eating. People also go on virtual tours of the Louvre where the crowds are non-existent and the Mona Lisa can be viewed in minute detail.

As delightful as this may seem, aren't there hidden dangers in this pursuit of what is, after all, second-hand living? The podcast particularly explores the deep watching of experts at work (something that we had no access to even a few years ago), be it a chef, a carpenter or a pianist, and what it does to us psychologically.

Shankar speaks to many people and discovers that, for most, it is cheaper and simpler to escape into another person's life and the emotional results are not too bad. As counter intuitive as it may sound, living through others may end up satisfying one's deeper needs and, as Shankar puts it, “fill holes in our psychological lives and serve as a self-esteem pick-me-upper.”

Our Vicarious Lives: Are They As Delightful As They Seem?
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