Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the happiest of them all

What is happiness? It obviously means different things to different people. Or does it? The social media version of happiness is not very diverse: #food #exercise #fun #friends #love #blessed. 21st-century happiness defined by hashtags and how good people are at taking photos.

I tried to look for #sadness today. None of the Instagram posts resonated with me; they are all cheesy quotes written on blurry background photos. I tried to search for #depression, and Instagram refused to show me the posts because they violate some of their policies.

Social media is only showing me the happiness. And when it shows me misery, it adds an inspirational or positive spin to it. I am in a happiness bubble. I am privileged and sheltered from all the pain of the world apart from mine.

I do believe that to be happy, or at least to have a chance at it, I need to find the missing piece of the puzzle. And right now, I think that the missing piece is the misery, the negativity. To have a full picture, I need to expose myself to the bad things happening around me. Not through the lenses of the camera of someone else, or through an Instagram filter. I need to be in touch with humanity, my humanity.

I don’t want to do this to be grateful – grateful to whom? Chance, genetics, luck? I don’t want to compare my happiness or my sadness with others, as this behaviour is unhealthy. I want to understand my privilege and how I can best use it. I don’t want to say to my future child: “Eat your food, kids are starving in Africa”. I want to be saying “I want you to understand your privilege so you can choose to use it to help the kids that go to the same school as you and aren’t able to have a proper meal”.

A friend of mine said to me: “Maybe people are miserable because they have the privilege of time to be miserable”. Should I chase happiness? I feel like it’s futile and it would make me more miserable. There is too much pressure to be happy nowadays. I don’t think life should be centred around happiness, I believe there are more important things and life is supposed to be meaningful, whatever that means. Maybe happiness is overrated or wrongly defined. And we are too self-absorbed to see that.

Find meaning, and write back.

6 Replies on “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the happiest of them all

  1. Depression and unhappiness are not widely publicised. Often housewives in nz took to their beds when they felt depressed, and neighbours would help out looking after kids and food. Society coming together to help out. Nowadays we have a wider community with the internet however a more narrow pool of physically present community built. Folks don’t talk to neighbours anymore. You are right, social media is erasing sadness.

    I read a Listener article years ago about how a migrant person health suffers if there’s no family or community in their new home.

    Seems depression is still considered taboo.

  2. Social pressure !
    You need to smile/laugh all the time, take 100 pictures when going out, talk to every stranger in the room otherwise you’ll be pointed out as the depressed person ! What if my happiness is to spend time alone or with few friends, people that I really care about !

  3. Have you ever read the book authentic happiness by Martin Seligman? My counsellor recommended it to me a number of years ago. Initially I ignored it, but after a year or so read it, and found it incredibly useful. It helped me see what really made me happy … and it wasn’t the things I had thought at all. It helped me understand that some big events like speaking at a conference or getting my PhD made me happy but in a fleeting way. For me, it was the little things in life like watching the light reflect on the water, or hearing my cat purr, or coffee and a natter with a friend that made me happy. It also helped me reflect on and better understand who I was, and the sorts of things I could do at work that made me happy.

    So why I am a recommending a book on happiness after your post, mostly because I agree with much of what you said about living in a bubble of happiness (fake) … and this booked helped me find the little things in life (and sometimes the big ones) that helped me find true happiness and not the fake stuff sold to us sometimes.

    I have also been reading: Sapiens: the brief history of mankind, which has also been eye opening, and one of the later chapters in the book has started to look at this too, and you may find it interesting. I have been listening to the audio book in the car. It is really quite thought provoking.

  4. Oh and I don’t think that depression is still considered taboo. So many folks have suffered from it (and still do). I know when I struggled with it I was surprised at how much stuff is there on the interwebs for folks in that space. I remember one inspiring video was put out for lgbt teenagers … reaching out and connecting with their specific difficulties. But so many folks share their experiences with this in an effort to assist others, that in itself reminds me that humans have great capacity for kindness/good.

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