Escapism, procrastination, and the dark playground


When I was little, my favorite show was Blue’s Clues. I really enjoyed the mini games they played in order to find clues, or find their way to clues. One of the hallmark moments of any Blue’s Clues episode was when Blue and Steve would “skidoo.” Whenever a character in a book or picture frame was in trouble, Blue would shrink down in size and transport into the world of the character in distress. Steve was always right behind Blue, using the song “Blue skidoo, we can too,” so that he could also shrink down and transport.


We skidoo too, although our skidooing goes by the name of “escapism.” Escapism, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine.” We often times try to escape realities that seem overwhelming or that we don’t like. In a study from StudyMode (referenced in my post from 2 weeks ago), feeling overwhelmed and not liking the work are the top 2 reasons college students procrastinate. Because students do not like the work they are assigned to do, or don’t know where to start, instead they divert their attention and escape into things they would rather be doing or are easier to understand.

However, indulging fantasy or our sense of instant gratification as a way to escape reality takes us to a dark place; a place where we play and partake in unearned leisure activities, hence the name, the dark playground. In the dark playground, we choose fun over work and responsibility and as a result that “fun” is clouded by guilt.

The dark playground is important in appropriately giving escapism a home in relation to procrastination. Not all escapism is procrastination. Say, for example, you’ve had a productive week, and now it’s the weekend and all you want to do is disappear into the pages of a book. That’s escapism, but it isn’t procrastination since you have nothing pressing you should be doing and you’ve been on top of your responsibilities all week. However, if you were to spend 3 hours reading a book when you should be writing an essay, that’s where escapism becomes procrastination and where fun takes place in the dark playground.

In my post from two weeks ago, The internet: procrastination station, I noted that TV and movies, along with social media are the top two avenues used for procrastination among college students. In this way, college students are participating in media escapism, using media platforms to escape reality, when they procrastinate.

In my previous example, I used reading as the form of escapism and procrastination. However, research shows that media platforms are the avenues through which college students most often procrastinate. Why do college students prefer media escapes over analog escapes?