Sunday, 7 July 2013

The day our sadness began, and it's only getting worse.

Positive psychology, the science of happiness, suggests that happiness is a relative construct rather than an objective position. The pleasure I gain from my possessions, job and family are all dependant on how I perceive others' lives and their objective happiness.

In other words, if I surround myself with miserable people my life would be pretty good- not only perceived as good but I would actually be happier.
To expand upon this theory the logical conclusion would be that my misery is proportional to the kind of company that I keep. If I surround myself with happy people, my life will be more miserable rather than happier. (A bit counter-intuitive)

If you were to take a few moments to consider the people closest to you, would you consider their lives and lifestyles idealistic? Most probably you are well aware of the most dysfunctional aspects of their lives- broken relationships, unruly kids, economic ruin and personal insecurities.They are not unique, we all struggle with our demons- but it is only with those that we know well that we can appreciate the demons and struggles of others.

Throughout our history our relationships seldom ventured outside of our shtetl. Everyone knew everyone else, as well as all their dirty laundry- envy was less of a problem for their was little to be envious of.

Even when we look to pictures of the 'olden days' we seldom feel any sense of jealousy and wish to go back to those times.

People seemed depressed and their lives unmistakably plain.
But something changed, and through that change was born an era of depression and low self esteem.
That change was the invention of the 
instant photography.

The reason that people had such dull expressions in old photographs is that you had to sit still for a very long time in order for the exposure to take hold. It is virtually impossible to freeze frame a smile for 15 minutes, thus sober and sombre poses were almost unanimously accepted.

Instant exposure photography allowed us to flash a cheezy smile at every opportunity, whether standing at the entrance to Disneyland or Alcatraz.

So instead of seeing sad depressed people in pictures, we see people appearing to be having a great time. Everyone is happy and having a blast. The most important detail is missing from the picture, its context.

Facebook has added insult to injury, now it is not only people I am close to who appear to be having a marvellous existence, even shallow acquaintances are living a blissful life- just look at their photos.
There is invariably a discord between people's Facebook status and their actual private lives.

My personal reality cannot possibility come close to the perceived reality of others. And thus a generation of misery is born out of the success of social media.
It would follow that the chances are that the more Facebook friends you have, the more miserable you will that's a sad thought.

Perhaps the best solution has been suggested by columnist Oliver Burkeman, and that's to subtitle our pictures with the statement "Just remember that this person is barely holding it together".

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