Cityscape by Baggeb on Pixabay

Are We Living In A Dystopian World?

Just a normal girl, livin’ in a dystopian world. Life is plastic, it is drastic. 

With the chaos of the past couple of years, we see the world with more clarity than ever before. We can see it as a dystopian world – for most of us, Covid-19 has been the biggest upheaval of our lives. We are now left to adapt to a post Covid planet and consider how to move forward in a world that has revealed itself to be much more threatening than we would ever have expected. 

Living with social distancing measures and conforming to the government’s restrictions has undeniably saved lives. While the technological miracles have had an immense impact and pollution levels worldwide have decreased from the streets, the dystopian traits we live in go beyond this. A dystopia is not necessarily a post-apocalyptic world ruled by technological advancement. While this thought carries merit in how we live now, what rings truer is how we live amongst inequality and dangerous levels of waste, frightening injustices and dehumanisation. Dystopian fiction is not a fantasy. Our lives with coronavirus haven’t created a dystopian world, but allowed us to see that we are already living in our own version. Just like works from Margaret Atwood and George Orwell, the world created is a warning of what life can escalate to because of our indulgences. 

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins shaped the world of Young Adult fiction; the series is not merely about a young girl sparking a revolution but a critique of social class and how a lifestyle of excessive spending, overtly elaborate fashion trends and consumerism takes precedence over the values of compassion and equity. Globally, we overlook sustainable fashion choices to keep up with what the next celebrity is wearing and we dislodge ourselves from our communities. A glamorous life is enchanting and addictive to watch, but not natural or sustainable. Idolising a culture of materialism and riches encourages narcissistic traits over happiness and self-esteem. The American Psychiatric Association indicated a link between watching reality TV and arrogant personality types, a lack of empathy and a tendency to exploit others. While it may be harmless to sometimes switch our brains off and succumb to mindless entertainment, it is proven to be detrimental to our overall health and damages our perception of others and ourselves. Many scholarly articles report how social media and reality TV correlate with higher traits of narcissism and lower self-esteem (Addictive Behaviours, Cecilie Schou Andreassen). So dystopian works such as The Hunger Games are a reflection of our society, revealing us to be predictable in our nature with a tendency to chase after all the wrong values. Our collective materialism shows us we are desperate to detach from our intrinsic selves, striving to meet a fantasy. It would appear that our minds and values are more superficial and entitled than ever before. 

Social media by Pixelkult on Pixabay
Social media by Pixelkult on Pixabay

With the ever-present and formidable escape of social media, it’s easy to focus on the exterior world. We are bombarded by advertisements and subconsciously self-critique when we see photoshopped and carefully orchestrated pictures. The media is an entity of connectivity and is also an illusion we love to put ourselves in. It’s difficult to look up from our phones and it is designed for exactly that purpose. While interactive technology has changed our lives for the better, from facilitating communication, helping build self-confidence and sharing creativity (in so many ways it has saved lives), in other ways it has increased mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It has reinforced narcissism and helped stimulate a culture of edited realities and perception. It is difficult to navigate if social media/certain genres of TV direct or reflect our culture. How much do we really take control of our minds? 

It is clear we need to re-evaluate and balance our priorities. This is exactly what dystopian writers such as Kiera Cass, Dan Wells or Veronica Roth approach in their young adult novels. They write about humans facing their apparently inevitable doom. We even see it in renowned shows such as Netflix’s Black Mirror and the global phenomenon Disney’s Avengers. All these art forms alert us of our own presence in the world and show us that our lives are significant and we do affect crucial elements of our world. We have the power to contribute and transform. The authors and writers connote a fractured but not broken world, begging the question in their young audiences,” What do we do with our freedoms while we still have them?

During the restrictions of the pandemic, we had the opportunity to reflect on our perception of freedom and what is important to us. Many of us spent more time with our families, got back to basics with entertainment and were forced to control our consumerism in the process. These actions should not be disregarded post-Covid. We can make more sustainable lifestyle choices, and invest in a green future instead of short term or immediate gain. We can refrain from the impulses of incessant consumerism and external focus. Right now. While utopia may seem out of reach, we can reconnect and protect the new world we find ourselves in.

Shivany Ria

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