Reality shifting (RS) is a trendy mental activity that emerged abruptly following the flare-up of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and seems to be practiced mainly by members of the post-millennial generation. RS, described as the experience of being able to transcend one’s physical confines and visit alternate, mostly fictional, universes, is discussed by many on Internet platforms. One RS forum boasts over 40,000 members and RS clips on some social media platforms have been viewed over 1.7 billion times. The experience of shifting is reportedly facilitated by specific induction methods involving relaxation, concentration of attention, and autosuggestion. Some practitioners report a strong sense of presence in their desired realities, reified by some who believe in the concrete reality of the alternate world they shift to. One of the most popular alternate universes involves environments adopted from the Harry Potter book and film series. We describe the phenomenology of RS as reported online and then compare it to related phenomena such as hypnosis, tulpamancy, dissociation, immersive and maladaptive daydreaming, and lucid dreaming. We propose a theoretical model of interactive factors giving rise to RS, and conclude that it is an important, uninvestigated emerging phenomenon and propose future research directions.
- Maladaptive daydreaming
- Reality shifting