We are increasingly encouraged to seek happiness, contentment, and stimulation through our screens, interactive screen play and video games. And now, through virtual reality headsets. But what is this doing to our ability to play, connect and communicate with each other in real time, face to face? And what are the health implications of virtual reality? Is it too much for our senses?
The latest craze in entertainment has landed. Put on a virtual reality headset and you can fully immerse yourself in an unreal environment, and feel like you are somewhere else entirely. You might be sitting in the smallest, pokiest apartment, but with this new technology you can transport yourself to into starry intergalactic space, deep underwater, an enchanted kingdom, a futuristic battlefield or a dystopian cityscape; you can visit sights across the world without leaving your living room.
Some claim virtual reality technology could revolutionize the way we learn, do business, and entertain ourselves. And certainly, this technology is increasingly being used in the medical field. From helping patients get over their phobias, to pain management and even Alzheimers and brain injury treatment, virtual reality is a versatile tool. Some universities are using it to simulate surgeries, helping students practice complex operations without endangering any real patients!
The Physical Risks of VR Headsets
But despite all the positive potential, there are serious health implications to virtual reality gaming headsets. Your eyes have to focus on a pixelated screen very close by, which can result in severe eyestrain. Cyber-sickness, characterized by nausea, disorientation and headaches, is another side effect of spending too long immersed in a virtual world. And then there are the very real and obvious dangers associated with wearing something that stops you from seeing what is actually around you. What’s more, our brain cells react entirely differently to virtual reality environments, with some neurons shutting down completely.
Too Much Violence?
And what about the psychological implications? The majority of people experience stress or anxiety within just a few minutes of wearing a virtual reality headset. Just like many computer and video games, a good percentage of virtual reality games are violent, set in warfare, and involve military exercises or simulated combat scenarios that include killing. Too much of this type of gaming can lead to desensitization—the player is no longer shocked by extreme acts of violence, and stops showing empathy or compassion. In rare cases, the player actively seeks these scenarios for the adrenaline rush or the sense of power. People can become addicted to virtual reality games—their real and digital lives blur, as they spend increasing amounts of time in their virtual world to the detriment of their real life.
Face to Face Contact
On the social side, spending too long playing any type of digital game means you spend less time interacting with friends and family, and being in the real world. We are already strapped to our mobile phones, let’s not erect another barrier to face-to-face communication! We are human beings, and our wellbeing depends on positive human interaction as much as it does on a healthy lifestyle.
The Dangers of VR Headsets
- Lack of coordination
- Eye strain
- Falling / bumping into things / injury
- Stress or anxiety
- Disconnection from the real world
- Losing touch with reality
- Social Isolation
Put Down that Headset
While virtual reality certainly has its place in our increasingly digitalized world, virtual reality gaming is something to approach with caution. From the physical dangers to the social implications, it seems virtual reality might be too much for our senses. And no matter how advanced the technology or how brilliant the graphics, the digital world will always fall short to the unpredictable beauty of a sunrise, or the warm complicity of a friendly conversation. So, why not put down that headset and tune into the real, tangible, beautiful world around you?