A recent article in i-D magazine highlights a new TikTok trend: reality shifting. By following a particular set of relaxation and attentional instructions, teens across the world claim to be able to enter an alternate reality from the comfort of their own bedrooms. One must identify the desired reality, usually Hogwarts, and imagine oneself alongside a desired individual from that reality, usually Draco Malfoy. While the article relates this ‘reality shifting’ to lucid dreaming, it quotes a mental health therapist who asserts that this young adult practice is an example of a ‘transliminal experience’. Essentially, these individuals seem to be inadvertently inducing hypnagogic states in which they focus on a predetermined ‘reality’, effectively guiding or controlling their minds as they experience a fictional world populated by an expected cast of characters. What may seem, on the surface, to be simply the most recent silly teenage fantasy, is also a relatively complex case of permeability, immersion, liminal cognition, and ‘experiential crossings’ (as project co-I Marco Bernini would say). Teenager’s bedrooms are a physical reality, Hogwarts and Malfoy are literary realities, their romantic sojourns there are dreamlike realities, and…let’s face it…their TikTok accounts are a whole other (virtual) reality.
Adam J. Powell, October 2020