Everyone sleeps late, so I should too.
Mimetic desires and revenge bedtime procrastination
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6 months into having Levi, we’re getting better at managing the rhythms and workflows around 2 kids. This has freed up capacity for me to get back into abit of gaming. This is also enabled by my return to work. I feel less pressure to do “productive” things when then kids are asleep, and can go all out to relax.
I’ve thus spent my nights over the past month playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, and now its sequel, which will likely occupy me up to the end of the year.
I’ve settled into a nightly routine where I’d do all the dishes and laundry, and then start my gaming. But, if I want even a hope of getting a healthy amount of sleep, I can only play for about an hour or so. Against my better judgement, I tend to say up a a little (ok, sometimes alot) longer than I should, to kill yet another robot animal.
One night, as I was struggling internally to get myself to put the controller down, I realised I was basically engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination. A term made popular about a year or so ago, describing how adults were sleeping late to make up for the lack of autonomy in the day. It resonated with many, me included.
Giving a name to this phenomenon changed things. There was less guilt in staying up late. It became a common human experience. It didn’t feel so bad now that I felt everyone else was doing it too. It was as if I now took in all their justifications and solidarity. Its a part of our social defensive mechanisms, to be one with the tribe rather than an outcast.
This solidarity is artificial. While there must be many others who resonated with the idea for it to trend, I know nothing of their individual circumstances. Why they do it, and how they do it. I simply believe we are the same, and I can draw on them for support. There are also many whom are not engaging in this activity that I am not thinking about.
I think the same thing happens with mimetic desires, the wanting of what other humans want. This is fueled by our desire to be one of the tribe, and not to be outcast. I regret how much I allowed such desires to invade my life. I wasted so much energy pursuing what I thought everyone else wanted, instead of asking myself hard questions about what I want.
Much like how my solidarity with other night owls is artificial, mimetic desires are artificial too. We don’t actually know what anyone else wants. Instead, we are fed a simple picture of it. Its only natural, when each of us is so unique and complex. Put aside the institutions or media wanting to keep people in simple identities so its easier to manipulate. Even amongst friends and family, we often try and fit ourselves and our desires into common categories and names that everyone can more easily understand. Its far easier to say more money is good, than to explain the intricacies of your ideal standard of living.
Considering how easily I was influenced into staying up late for a video game, I surely have much work to do in learning to tune out the desires and thoughts of the world. I remind myself to, whenever possible, justify my decisions based on my own desires and benchmarks, and to choose uniqueness over conformity.
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