1 : done or suffered for the benefit of someone else 2 : sharing in someone else’s experience through the use of the imagination or sympathetic feelings
It's fascinating how the definition seems to have transformed from the physical to the emotional. The word derives from the Latin "vicis," meaning change, alternation, or stead. While this word literally translates to taking one's spot, it is now predominantly used in the figurative form of fantasizing you are in someone else's place.
Living VICARIOUSLY, in the second sense, usually implies channeling a situation that is better than the subject's in order to pretend-live the good life for a while. But the word can also suggest the opposite: the repositioning of one's self into a situation worse than her own in order to put things into perspective. In both cases of VICARIOUSNESS there's a dangerous element of self-avoidance, or rather, understanding the self only in terms of better or worse off than someone else. But we could go even further and ask—who are you without your "other?" Do you even exist?
Or we could stop.
My point is, VICARIOUS living is both detrimental and unavoidable. Like capitalism, the best you can do is realize you are an active participant and move on. If you try to escape you just look like that dude who pays taxes and has a bank account but refuses to get a cell phone because he's avoiding the "system."