Review: The Happiness Effect

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Do our smart phones and social media make us happy? We certainly find it difficult to be without them. This is one  of the questions Donna Freitas examines in her book The Happiness Effect, available February 2017.

 

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I have personally said many times that I’m very glad that I grew up prior to smart phones and social media. My early 20s were pretty socially care free, knowing that none of my worst moments would turn up to haunt me on a website that my colleagues, employers and parents could see.

These days it seems that every moment is recorded and posted somewhere. It seems as though it’s not enough to do something, but there is also a need to record it and look amazing while doing it.

Freitas interviews a wide variety of US college students to see what they think about it social media, how they use it and the impact it has on their lives. Her findings are very interesting.

It seems that for the most part people are aware that others only record and share their perfect moments,  creating an online version of their life that looks perfect from the outside. Despite knowing this, a lot of students were made to feel insecure and inferior by the perfect life their peers shared online.

Young people also seem very aware of keeping their online presence employer friendly, and would ensure that anything untoward was not posted on their Facebook pages. One girl went to the extreme of managing 17 (!) groups of friends with whom she would share only specific aspects of her life.

This book is a very interesting look at social media and the way it is used by young people, and how it effects the way they view themselves, others and the world around them.

4 out of 5 smiley faces.

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13 thoughts on “Review: The Happiness Effect

  1. It is mind-blowing to think of how rapidly our social landscape has changed over the course of ten or fifteen years. The ways we have to relate to each other, and the social norms within each of those areas, are so eclectic now. Another facet of this issue that I find so fascinating is how many people don’t see an experience as “real” (however they define that) if it hasn’t been posted, shared, and “liked.” It’s an even greater struggle to live in the present moment when we’re always thinking of how to present that moment to the online world.

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    • Yes!! Some of the people in the book talk about engineering those moments and even deleting posts if they didn’t get enough likes. Some of them were aware that this took away from experiencing the moment, but seemed unsure what to do about it.

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      • As a culture, we’ve come to this point where we’re often more concerned with what we present online (and, as you said, how it’s received) than we are with what we’re actually experiencing! That is as interesting as it is unnerving to me.

        From a spiritual standpoint it worries me too. Across religious traditions, people have sought and found the Divine in the silence (Jesus went into the wilderness; Buddha meditated under the Bohdi tree; Muhammad went into the cave in Mt. Hira; Moses ascended Mt. Sinai, etc.). How do we hope to find some semblance of peace and tranquility if we’re living in a world where we’re constantly distracted by the chimes of our phones from texts, tweets, posts, pins, likes, retweets, etc.? And how can we hope to pull ourselves away from those distractions when we are evaluating our lives based on those sorts of reactions?

        It is most certainly an intriguing age we’re living in.

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      • Absolutely. I really think the rise in anxiety can be linked to these devices and social media as we’re always looking for external validation rather than finding that within ourselves. It will certainly be interesting to see how the kids now use that technology as they reach their teens and 20s.

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      • Your anxiety point is spot on. I hadn’t thought of it like that before but I think that makes a lot of sense. And you’re right about the kids too! I remember “learning how to text” but these kids (God…I feel SO OLD typing that!!) are growing up knowing how to do it. I was at a party a few years ago and I saw a baby who knew how to flip through pictures on a smart phone. It seemed like instinct! In reality it was a learned behavior but the behavior was clearly learned before any sort of real language acquisition. You raise a very, very interesting point…what will that future world be like? And what of our ability to nourish rich, interpersonal relationships? Will our ever increasing technology really help to unite us as it can or will it bring more isolation?

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  2. I deleted my Facebook account around 5 years ago and I’m so glad I did. I was experiencing a bad patch in my life and going online seeing all my Facebook friends lead seemingly perfect fun lives just added to my unhappiness. Of course now I realise just how fake it is – you’re right that people on social media sites just post about their happy moments. And that’s not even mentioning how people become obsessed with their friend/follower count. Now I just use social media to blog and meet other bloggers, and for me that’s way more fun!

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    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Good for you! I’m feeling pretty disenchanted with Facebook myself at the moment, but have stopped short of deleting my profile. I check it once a week or so and that feels like a better fit for me. I agree connecting through blogs is great and Litsy has also become one of my preferred social media platforms.

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  3. That sounds interesting! I also am happy I grew up without all of this BUT I met all my friends through the internet so I don’t really know! I never knew anyone who liked to read when I was a kid so that was kinda sad ^^’

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  4. Social media is frightening. It’s doing so much to our young people. I’m not surprised they feel the need to be perfect! I love the blog aspect because it allows self-expression, but I’m not a big FB user because I know everyone can see everything and I’ve been judged for things I’ve posted. So I tend to stay away. But I love our blogs because we get to share who we are without fear of mocking or slander. 😉
    Great book choice!

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