What is 'reality shifting' and why is it taking over TikTok?
By using the “raven” or “Alice in Wonderland” method, fans claim they're entering other universes, primarily so they can get off with Draco Malfoy.
If you’ve been anywhere on the internet recently, you’ve likely heard about “Draco Malfoy TikTok”. It’s exploded in recent weeks — at time of writing, the hashtag #dracomalfoy currently boasts over 2 billion views. There’s a mix of videos and trends to be found within the #dracomalfoy tag: wholesome fan edits of clips from the Harry Potter films, PoV imaginings of what life would be like as Malfoy’s girlfriend, and general musings about just how unbearably hot he is.
In among these videos of Tom Felton being extremely, extremely fit, it’s not uncommon to stumble across a video explaining how you can literally be with Malfoy, through a process called reality shifting or just “shifting”. “Shifting is moving your consciousness from one reality to another reality,” this video explains. “You can train yourself to shift into an entirely different reality, such as Hogwarts.” There are shifting communities on apps like Amino and sites like Reddit, but it seems TikTok is home to the largest online shifting community.
The app’s hashtag #shiftingrealities has over 26.1 million views. While there are some videos from other fandoms, the overwhelming majority of these shifting videos are from Draco stans explaining how you can mentally transport yourself to Hogwarts. Interested? Of course you are. Well, there are two popular ways of doing this: “the raven method” involves lying down in a starfish position and counting down from 100 while imagining your desired reality, while the “the Alice in Wonderland method” requires the “shifter” to visualise themselves running after a person from their desired reality (for instance, Draco) and jumping down a rabbit hole with them. It sounds similar to lucid dreaming, but most members of the shifting community would argue that it’s far more intense and realistic than any dream.
Helen, 15, is a member of the ‘shifting community’ from Ireland. “I saw a lot of stuff on TikTok about shifting around a month ago and that was the first I’ve heard of it. I became very interested in it. I was confused at the idea of it at first, but I have a deeper understanding of it now that I’ve shifted myself,” she explains.
“Shifting is a very strange experience. It’s like an extremely vivid dream, yet it’s more real than any dream I’ve ever had. Before I plan on shifting I write myself a script in the notes app on my phone, in which I plan exactly what happens in the desired reality. This makes it easier to visualise exactly what I want to happen - so I might script that I want to go to Hogwarts and for Draco to be my boyfriend, or that he will flirt with me.”
LA-based Allison, 18, is another TikToker who’s dabbled in shifting. “I first got into Harry Potter in elementary school. My grandma loved the books and she would read them to us before bed — I always identified with the Slytherin house and had a crush on Draco,” she recalls. “Recently TikTok has reopened my love for the series.”
“Shifting is just something I found fascinating and I thought I’d try it out,” she explains. “The shifting experience is different for everyone. I see bright white lights flickering and my body begins to vibrate and go sort of numb. My legs will twitch and I’ll start to feel my thoughts get ‘lighter’. I’ll also hear people from my DR [desired reality] speaking - usually Draco.”
So what’s the science behind the strange phenomenon? Grace Warwick is a therapist with expertise in anomalous experiences. She says that this isn’t lucid dreaming, but is instead something called a “transliminal experience”. “Transliminal experiences occur when awake and are most common when the mind is in a soothed state - for example, upon waking and before falling asleep,” she explains. “The ‘instructions’ [for shifting] that abound on social media include being half asleep as a start point. They then introduce repetitive music [or] counting backwards slowly. All these factors would induce a state conducive to a transliminal experience. An interesting aspect of the techniques is the central part that a prepared ‘script’ plays - I would liken the role of the script to creating a guided meditation or working with active imagination.”
15-year-old Mavi lives in Florida and is another active member of both the shifting and Draco communities, boasting an impressive 149,000 followers on TikTok. Unlike Helen and Allison, she’s been into shifting for a long time. “Ever since I was little I have used daydreaming and lucid dreaming as an escape from my reality. About one year ago I came across shifting and I immediately felt drawn to it,” she explains. “Shifting feels like real life. I have only shifted to Hogwarts once [but] it was amazing. I made so many amazing friendships with the trio, Draco, Luna… it was the best time.”
Mavi says that she considers shifting a “hobby” - it’s clear she has a lot of varied interests, and shifting isn’t something which dominates or interferes with her day-to-day life. “I don’t wish I was in my DR full-time because I have so many things to live for in my CR [current reality], like acting and modelling.”
Evidently, Helen, Allison, and Mavi are all happy and healthy individuals, but Warwick says that these experiences can be different for different individuals. “For the vast majority, the current trend is simply the next iteration of our relationship to altered states — enjoyable and seemingly magical — but I would urge a sense of caution,” she says. “Key indicators to seek mental health support would be if the ‘shifter’ experienced anything that created fear for them, or challenged their belief system regarding what we could refer to as ‘consensual reality’. Also seek help if there is any ongoing drifting into altered states outside of intended ‘shifting’ sessions.”
Thankfully, as Warwick points out, “the vast majority” of shifters have a good experience: she says shifters can return to their current reality “[feeling] revived and energised by an experience that fitted with their belief system and experiential limits”. It’s also clear that both the Draco and shifting communities foster a healthy online space. “[The community] is actually a really nice environment and a great place to talk and express your common interests with people,” Helen says. Allison thinks “it’s definitely one of the kindest areas of TikTok”. And honestly, given the shitshow that 2020 has been, I think a (largely) wholesome community of young women who are all simultaneously Draco Malfoy’s girlfriend is the last thing anyone should be concerned about right now.