Getting lost in a good book, movie, or TV show can feel so good. It’s amazing how involved you can get in these stories—hating King Joffrey, wanting Ross and Rachel to be together, crying when Rose lets go of Jack—the characters may not be real, but our feelings about them are.

Whether the stories are fantastical, realistic, silly, or dark, there’s a freedom that comes with allowing yourself to be engrossed in a fictional world. Sometimes we abuse this ability to avoid our own world.

If things aren’t going perfectly in your life, it’s pretty appealing to simply opt into someone else’s. And this can be a decent coping mechanism when used in moderation. But the connection you have with your favourite characters will always be lacking because they’ll only ever be one sided.

Sometimes you might watch a show until Netflix (passive-aggressively) asks you, “Are you still watching?”  because you’re feeling overwhelmed, other times, to avoid unpleasant thoughts. When you do this, you’re not consuming the content because you necessarily want to but because you’re afraid—afraid of being alone with your thoughts.

Escapism may help you in the moment, but it’s only a temporary fix.

Having a conversation about the things that are troubling you with someone who is understanding and who values you can provide longer-lasting comfort. You may learn something from the conversation or view your problem in a new light, either of which could help you to deal with your challenge more easily. At the very least, you’ll probably feel better simply because you connected with someone.

Having a conversation with an actual person can help to ground you in your own life and make you feel supported and valued, which can make you feel better prepared to confront your problems.

If you’re able to face your problems and be present in this world rather than trying to occupy a fictional one, you’ll enjoy yourself more. While fictional worlds may be entertaining, exciting, and enticing, firsthand experiences are captivating in ways that can’t be simulated.