Amy Mace asks whether the internet is pointing us in the wrong direction when it comes to finding our own happiness…
I’m sure you can think up a few things right now that you believe have, do, or will make you happy. But have you ever stopped to think that perhaps you’re looking in completely the wrong places for that unfaltering, all-consuming state of enduring happiness?
In the digital universe of 2016, we are inundated with beautiful images of ‘happiness’. Foreign cityscapes, impressive latte art, the sun setting over the horizon beyond a beach hut in Southeast Asia, a gourmet burger oozing with all kinds of calorific deliciousness, a tanned and toned member of the #fitfam in an expensive-looking gym lifting a barbell. The barbell is probably pink, too. Maybe sparkly. Social media suggests that happiness takes on specific, filtered forms, and that if we could only imitate even part of the Insta-feeds of these people, we might feel that little bit more fulfilled.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at most of the above. I’d bloody love a glittery pink barbell. And before shunning these images as fake or contrived, we should respect the fact that for many people this is an accurate representation of their happy, fulfilled and successful lives. But sometimes I think we forget the key word: theirs. It concerns me that in comparing, aspiring to and concerning ourselves with what constitutes the happiness of others, we are bypassing what will actually make us, truly happy. We become so focussed on a filtered version of some other person’s happiness, that our own seems lacking by comparison. I like crisps, they make me happier, but maybe I’d be happier if I ate kale chips instead? Speaking personally, probably not. We need to stop wasting time synthesising the happiness of others and start searching for our own sources.
Do kale chips really lead to an unshakeable state of happiness? Maybe we need to start looking at the bigger picture? Maybe I need to stop talking about kale chips.
The amount of times my friends and I have splashed the cash on extravagant food and overpriced cocktails, only to have better nights and bigger laughs when we’ve chilled on the sofa with a cheap bottle of vino (or our own home-brewed Long Island Ice Teas) are actually pretty numerous. Happy hours and experiencing what the world has to offer has an undeniable wealth of social and psychological benefits. But being able to relax enough to appreciate those home comforts and that unadorned (but perhaps slightly tipsy) good company when its right in front of you is of equal importance, yet is too often forgotten amidst the flood of Snapchat stories that suggest otherwise. Everyone else seems to be off on the gap-yah of a lifetime, or surrounded by half clothed men and wine. The internet has become a place that flaunts the material as some solution to our constant pursuit of happiness, suggesting that it’s monolithic and available for a price. Maybe we need to turn our phones off for a little while?
What I propose is that we start looking somewhere a little more reliable for a source of happiness we can depend on. An ever changing Instagram feed, constantly one upping itself is probably not all that reliable. The best place to start is with the one person that will always be there for you, and it may be clichéd, but that is you. Comparison is cheap, and happiness is subjective; you’re probably the only person who knows just how to make yourself happy. It makes so much more sense. Surely we’ll feel more consistently happy if we can embrace our circumstances, take the rough with the smooth, and stop beating ourselves up for not living up to society’s filtered fabrication of what happiness looks like.
So by all means Instagram your breakfast, travel the world and prance around in your new jacket because you saved up for it and its bloody lovely; but don’t be disappointed when the enjoyment you get from these experiences starts to fade. We’re human, we want and need and will always enjoy the frivolous and fun (yet temporary) quick fixes that give us pleasure. Yet although it’s more difficult, we need to try harder to give ourselves the credit and respect we deserve as often as we can. We may need reminding every now and again, but hopefully we’ll all start to find that the secret to our happiness is exclusive, has taken up permanent residence, and is never far from reach. Even the girl with the rock hard abs and pool floaty shaped like a swan has to fight for her happiness; don’t base your own on a little square representation of one moment of another person’s life.
Follow Amy on Twitter: @fashjunkieblog
Illustration: Mitucami Mituca