What is ‘ShiftTok’? The TikTok community claiming they can travel to alternate realities

What is ‘ShiftTok’? The TikTok community claiming they can travel to alternate realities

A new TikTok trend has people claiming they can shift into alternate realities.

In a TikTok community called “ShiftTok,” people say they can shift their consciousness into different realities through mental meditation techniques. Viral videos from the online community show various users claiming everything from having a husband in a different world to being able to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from Harry Potter.

“I have a husband in a lot of my DRs [desired realities],” ShiftTok influencer Maddie told viewers in one video. “What’s important is remembering that you do exist there.”

So-called “shifters” claim they can travel between realities through meditative techniques like creative visualisation. Psychologists typically employ this tactic on their patients to relax or soothe them, with some noting that by tapping into one’s imagination, a patient can achieve a deeper sense of serenity.

“Creative visualisation is a good example of how to use your imagination to help you create whatever you want to happen in your life,” Dr Abigail Brenner wrote in Psychology Today. “The technique has been around for a long time, has been well-researched, and its usefulness has been demonstrated.”

However, Dr Brenner notes that creative visualisation is a method used to help a patient ascertain their goals and what they see themselves accomplishing, not necessarily an escape to an alternate reality. Creative visualisation takes place in the first person, with the idea that what you’re visualising takes place in the present. But if the lines between what is real and imagined become blurry, psychologists say it may indicate something worrisome.

In another video, Maddie addressed both prospective shifters and armchair psychologists in her comments section, explaining that her shifting isn’t a byproduct of maladaptive daydreaming, or schizophrenia. She directed viewers to a comprehensive Google document she made addressing the various diagnoses lobbed at her.

“Shifters do not lose themselves in their DRs,” she said, adding that shifting does not impede her from living a normal life. “When I am going about my day it is not impacted by my desire to shift realities. It’s not impacted by me thinking about my DRs. I hardly ever think about my DRs during the day.”

Even if shifters may claim that it doesn’t impact their day-to-day, because it doesn’t severely limit their ability to function, doesn’t mean it isn’t cause for concern. Those with schizophrenia, for example, may be inclined to believe in magical thinking and can oftentimes have difficulty being able to differentiate their dreams from reality.

“Altered states of consciousness are normal for the human experience,” therapist Erik Anderson told USA Today. “Some people will come back from those intense fantasy states and say, ‘Ah, I had this interesting fantasy. I had a dream. I was daydreaming.’ And some people come back, and they go, ‘No, those weren’t daydreams. Those were real.’ “

To a lesser degree, using shifting as a means to escape from reality, may indicate maladaptive daydreaming. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this occurs when someone is daydreaming excessively to avoid coping with their everyday life. Researchers have found that those who experience it have extremely vivid and detailed daydreams.

If someone vividly imagines a life in which they have a family, Anderson explained, that may be a product of loneliness. A detailed daydream of being a Hogwarts student or a hobbit in Tolkien’s Middle Earth may suggest craving a life with more adventure.

“In previous generations, there were just as many people like this... but now that you have the internet, these people can form online communities,” Anderson noted. The presence of the ShiftTok community shows that it’s harder for those struggling with their perception of reality to go unnoticed. But as they contend with their unique experiences, knowing they may not be alone can be comforting.