Virtual Reality, Existential Dread & Insomnia

For those who follow my channel and my antics in the metaverse, you could be forgiven for thinking that I am a very social individual within Virtual Reality. This is certainly true when I play the staple titles such as Project Cars & Elite Dangerous and wave shooters such as Raw Data. I hugely enjoy the interaction with my friends. In reality, excuse the pun, we each play the majority of the time in the vast emptiness of virtual space. Alone. Completely, utterly, vividly alone.  Recently I noticed that I started to develop periods of insomnia that correlate with my times spent in VR – Mrs UKRifter will delight in informing you how much of a heavy and noisy sleeper I am – so the bouts of insomnia were unusual and warranted further investigation.

My first avenue was to read up on blue light and the dangers it poses to our health. In short, blue wavelengths of light found in a plethora of LED objects you stare at well into the night, will disrupt your bodily functions.


These light waves, while useful to spur you into action with the rising of the sun, will burn your candle at both ends and can be attributed to a number of conditions – insomnia being one of them.

This article from Harvard medical school goes into greater detail.

This seemed to make a lot of sense but didn’t completely explain my bouts of sleeplessness. I would only suffer from the condition periodically, additionally, staring at little squares of led light has been something I have done for years, well before the advent of VR, and with no noticeable ill effect to date.

So my researching continued and I stumbled across the definition of Chronic Loneliness and it immediately resonated with me.

Being in an isolated state can be a serious and – in fact – life threatening condition. Chronically lonely people have increased risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, digestive problems, obesity and… poor sleep quality with a generally reduced restorative process.


To be clear, I don’t believe that I am a chronically lonely person. I have friends and a wonderful family that make me happy to get up in the morning. I crave stable relationships, quickly distancing myself from bad ones. I enjoy being with people who care for me as much as I care for them. Conversely I fear solitude, isolation and being away from my home. There are complex reason for this, but it’s a small insight into my persona which may explain why my temporary isolation in VR hits my psyche so hard.

The existentialist school of thought views loneliness as the essence of being human. You travel through life at the centre of you own universe. Alone. Observing the actors entering and exiting from stage left and right. You die alone. The existential dread caused by the uncertainty of existence and fear of loneliness triggers nonsensical thought processes, faiths, colourful stories to fill the grey areas with a rainbow of calming “explanation”.

I have no such explanation to sooth me and then you couple that with VR, the most lonely place constructed in human history.

Virtual reality is a cold digital world without substance. A world that encompass you entirely but gives you nothing substantial in return. A world the lies to you so cleverly that the marvel of it muffles your crescendoing primeval screams. When you stare across a digital plane you are alone in the truest sense. Even in an empty room a meaningful glance may be had with a passing gnat. VR may even have you question the reality above.

It is this utter isolation that I believe is responsible for my diminished restorative processes and so I try not to spend too much time alone in there. My sleep quality has improved.

Social VR is my preferred realm, there I am connected to other entities suffering the human condition, other – potentially more artificially interesting – actors in the play of my life. I stare into their pixelated eyes and breath a sigh of relief.

by Christopher Gray aka UKRifter

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at my infinitely more talented wife’s globally popular art. 

UKRifter’s Wife – Penny. Founder of the world renowned Penny Pottery.


  1. Personally I’m a hermit and the demands of everyday life leave very little alone time let alone game time with raising 2 kids and work. So I enjoy being utterly alone at times in VR but I will agree when measuring the fun factor, social VR is awesome! If I were ever to start a game developer company in VR I would focus only in social multiplayer games!

    • I feel similar, my theory in this article is just that – a theory. The fact remains that social VR is massively more compelling in VR than even in traditional monitor based games, this fact strengthens my theory. Being alone in VR is incredibly isolating.

      • I totally agree being alone in VR is incredibly isolating, but sometimes that’s a desirable thing! Lol But social VR is going to bring everyone closer together than ever before… I have been a PC gamer for over 23 years and I have played my fare share of multiplayer games with my friends… Back in the day we actually got together for lan parties on a regular basis… These days we hardly ever get together and while it’s still fun to play together online, I never get the same feeling of getting together in the same place to game… But in VR it’s like the good Ole days of lan parties again and I get a very real sense of being together with my friends and very real memories of those fantastic places…

        • Yes you are right Chris – that’s exactly what it makes me think of, those days when you would carry you PC around to a mates house and hook it up. Wow – I remember playing Stunt Car Racer on an Amiga 500 with a 9600 Baud serial cable linked between (which I had to solder together). Damn I am old.

  2. Written so well. I feel for you dude. My existential dread and loneliness feels like it’s triggered so easily, but I think on a subconscious level, my brain is always fighting the triggers. I’ve wondered if that’s how some people just always seem so blissful and motivated for each day. But, it may go unnoticed. I know I fly under the radar with depression, especially from family. Some of the best/memorable moments in my life were still accompanied with loneliness and dread. In a second I can dip out and be drowned in existential thoughts.

    You’re bringing light into the world though man. I think you’re a great person and friend.

  3. Chris this is a very unexpected article, but touching to read. “you could be forgiven for thinking that I am a very social individual within Virtual Reality”, yes I did think that, but also understand “Even in an empty room a meaningful glance may be had with a passing gnat”.
    It’s obvious you are an intelligent people person, it’s why we all love you and understand your social needs. I’d love to be more like you in VR, but I’m so damn shy its stupid.

    • Jim, I am an introvert. I am drained by working with people. My actions on camera are not at all how I act off camera, we all have different masks in different environments. I use youtube a little like an extrovert training ground. I get a lot of value from interacting with people via that channel and I hope people enjoy it too. It’s no secret that I struggled with the group dynamic on the VRspies podcast, I was the one who started it and killed it in reality, I believe the team are thinking about bringing it back, but it will be without the introvert. I may go solo or work with a smaller team.

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