Virtual Reality Can Leave You With an Existential Hangover

Dec 25, 2016

By Rebecca Searles

When Tobias van Schneider slips on a virtual reality headset to play Google’s Tilt Brush, he becomes a god. His fingertips become a fiery paintbrush in the sky. A flick of the wrist rotates the clouds. He can jump effortlessly from one world that he created to another.

When the headset comes off, though, it’s back to a dreary reality. And lately van Schneider has been noticing some unsettling lingering effects. “What stays is a strange feeling of sadness and disappointment when participating in the real world, usually on the same day,” he wrote on the blogging platform Medium last month. “The sky seems less colorful and it just feels like I’m missing the ‘magic’ (for the lack of a better word). … I feel deeply disturbed and often end up just sitting there, staring at a wall.”

Van Schneider dubs the feeling “post-VR sadness.” It’s less a feeling of depression, he writes, and more a sense of detachment. And while he didn’t realize it when he published the post, he’s not the only one who has experienced this. Between virtual reality subreddits and Oculus Rift online forums, there are dozens of stories like his. The ailments range from feeling temporarily fuzzy, light-headed, and in a dream-like state, to more severe detachment that lasts days—or weeks. Many cases have bubbled up in the last year, likely as a response to consumer VR headsets becoming more widely available. But some of the stories date as far back as 2013, when an initial version of the Oculus Rift was released for software developers.


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16 comments on “Virtual Reality Can Leave You With an Existential Hangover

  • I’ve found (as somebody else noted on the associated Google+ account) a somewhat similar feeling when I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek The Next Generation or similar fare in HD on a large computer monitor with a good pair of stereo headphones. I also recommend watching some video taken out the window of a landing aircraft with headphones on.



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  • My prosthetics, Google and Spell Check, has helped me talk to fellow atheists of a calibre that I only dreamed of a while back. If I lost it I would lose a lot but I ain’t half glad its here.



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  • q

    There is a huge amount I want to say about education always starting from the very earliest of principles and from the biographical histories of its discoverers and their need to discover. But a few points must suffice.

    Eratosthenes is the most important true scientist to show how the diameter of the earth is measured with the simplest of tools and techniques. When I learned electronics in the age of transistors I learned on 1925 bright emitter valves because the physics of all the components was manifested in their visible illustrating shape. When I taught photography I first made a camera out of cardboard to take our collective picture. Everyone is familiar with the slick modern magic of technology. It is in its first principles that shock and a more beguiling open-handed magic lies. More than ever we should teach the creative genius of the early mind, and its humble but unintimidated attitude that can start whole new journeys.

    Are we more incompetent? No, no I don’t think so. Endless programs inform us of yesteryear, show us how to catch fish or skin a rabbit. More than ever hobbies making things for pleasure and profit abound. More than ever technology is dropping in cost and being shared by ordinary folk. Kids code. Homes have 3D printers. Second hand silicon foundry equipment is dirt cheap and in some surprisingly wide hands. Ad hoc groups write operating systems. Tech is increasingly embedded, diffuse and robust. The internet is designed up from Arpanet to be the essence of robust. Its not that technology and knowledge couldn’t be patched back together very quickly. It is not our dependency on technology that is the liability, it is the fragility of social and economic infrastructures that might actually fritz the restoration of a national electricity supply, say.



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  • It is not our dependency on technology that is the liability, it is
    the fragility of social and economic infrastructures that might
    actually fritz the restoration of a national electricity supply, say.

    and that fragility has nothing to do with dependency on technology?



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  • q

    Not really.

    Because technology in many of its parts has moved away from needing huge corporate players to wrangle it, the fragility is not as folk imagine it. Many folk do not understand technology and cut themselves off from it. But many folk do understand it and understand it well. Many folk have no such reticence when it comes to thinking they understand the complexities of economics, when actually they are pig ignorant.



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  • Virtual Reality Can Leave You With an Existential Hangover

    It could simply be a withdrawal symptom, i.e., a sign of an emerging addiction.
    And our brain can get addicted to a lot of things (including computer programming, as RD himself knows well).



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  • Article: Van Schneider dubs the feeling “post-VR sadness.” It’s less a feeling of depression, he writes, and more a sense of detachment. And while he didn’t realize it when he published the post, he’s not the only one who has experienced this. Between virtual reality subreddits and Oculus Rift online forums, there are dozens of stories like his. The ailments [side effects] range from feeling temporarily fuzzy, light-headed, and in a dream-like state, to more severe detachment that lasts days—or weeks. Many cases have bubbled up in the last year, likely as a response to consumer VR headsets becoming more widely available. But some of the stories date as far back as 2013, when an initial version of the Oculus Rift was released for software developers.

    The use of VR headsets clearly causes harmful side effects -perhaps neurological damage- to some users (see excerpt above in bold type). These devices should have prominent warning labels. Though legal, it is probably useful to advise all persons to avoid using them with any frequency until longitudinal studies can assess changes in brain function with regular or addictive use.



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