Facing fears, the Internet way

Can exposure to our fears, via the Internet, help us conquer them?

This video was passed to me with the note, “I will give you five bucks if you can watch this without your palms sweating.” Sorry folks, that offer was only good for me, and needless to say the sendee won’t have to pay up. It wasn’t quite fear, though, something more like straight-up adrenaline that caused my reaction. See for yourself:

While this is an amazing feat, the revealing story is in the reactions. The comments on the video range from admiration to astonishment with some good old, “That is so terrifying!!!” remarks thrown in for balance. This got me thinking about how we address our own fears, and wondering if people attempt to do this online.

According to an article from Backpacker Magazine, we can acquire skills to face our fears in the virtual world, “‘The gold standard for treatment is in vivo exposure therapy,’ Anderson says, but virtual exposure through computer simulations can be a good alternative when real-life contact is too difficult or expensive, such as in a fear of flying.”

But can – and do – we actually undertake this? Do you challenge yourself to overcome fears by watching videos?

h/t for the video, Michael Wells

  • Joanna

    First: OMG OMG OMG!

    Second: as someone who once had to sit down and cling to the ground when she got close to a mountain peak in Yosemite (even though it was not steep and there was no way I could fall off anything, let alone fly off the face of the earth the way I was afraid I would) I can say with conviction that I could watch a million videos and still have the same fear of heights.

  • Anna

    I also have a, somewhat selective, fear of heights. Bouncy extension ladders, nope. Scaffolding? Much better.

    This video falls into my “extension ladders” category – and I highly doubt just watching videos will change much (I think I still have a little vertigo from some of the video shots). Maybe (maybe) with a highly skilled therapist helping me – but not just watching YouTube by my lonesome.

  • GregS

    There is more here than conquering fear. The tight-rope walker is obviously experienced. Walking a rope is not just something you decide to do one day, so his fear is not the same as ours.

    But what about the conquering part? The challenge?

    The best (and craziest) part of ourselves is that which challenges us to be more than what we are, and do more than what we feel we are capable of.

  • Julia Schrenkler

    Joanna, I’m curious: Were you able to get down off that mountain on your own or did friends & family help you?

    It is sort of interesting you have a scale on that, Anna. Maybe it is the perception of stability?

    GregS, you’re on to something. Some people seem inclined to throw themselves at their fears, or even daily challenges.

  • Bob

    My reaction was to scratch my head, not get sweaty palms. This stunt is certainly brave and crazy, but seems majorly pointless — unless doing something so uniquely life-endangering is worth it just to get virtually guaranteed YouTube exposure.

    I’m all for the idea of facing fears in everyday life, but I’m comfortable with the fact that there lots of things I’m afraid of — such as sticking my head in a lion’s throat, or playing dodge ’em with moving freight trains — which I feel no compunction to attempt to conquer.

  • Julia Schrenkler

    Bob, oddly enough there are probably videos available that document stunts involving large predators and moving vehicles. Your point about “no compunction to attempt to conquer.” is a pretty sensible one, though.