Wouldn’t it be absolutely brilliant if you could Google search or ask Siri “How to Be Happy” and get a bunch of personalized returns? A link to your soulmate, a link to your dream job, and links to fun new hobbies would all pop up and you could save them and file them and never have to think about why these things make you happy. You’d get special websites dedicated to how to deal with your shortcomings, horrible things from you past, and anxieties you picked up along the way.
Sadly, until an algorithm that can calculate each individual’s happiness is created, we’ll have to keep doing it the old school way and just live. (Sounds so tiring, I know.)
The thing is, the internet already tries to do this but in a sloppy, non-mathematical way. Everyday we are bombarded with articles, blog posts, infographics, cartoons, videos, GIFs, and pictures all claiming that they know what it takes to make us happy. They contradict each other, clog up our pages, become mantras we live by, stories that we share with others going through tough times. We consume them as fast as they are written. And I am no less at fault than anyone else.
According to the internet, Happiness, capital H, is achieved by the following:
-Being Alone AND Finding the Perfect Mate
-Finding Your True Passion AND Being Okay With What You Do Now
-Taking on More Responsibility AND Getting Rid of Responsibility
-Binge Watching Jessica Jones AND Leaving Your House
All of them claim to know the real you, what you really need, how the world really works, and then they wrap up by saying something along the lines of “But of course, only you know what’s best for you because I’m a freelance writer who slams out 15 of these a day to feed myself.” They aren’t necessarily wrong in pointing to things that generally make people happy, and I do think their intentions come from a good place, but really, how are we to find our way if we’re willing to let other people tell us what they think is right?
Let’s go back to the part where I said I am a part of the problem. I love sharing this shit. I share one, two, three, eight hundred articles a day on my Facebook page about living a better life, reasons why we all feel like shit all the time, what it’s like living as a Millennial when everyone hates Millennials–even other Millennials. We gasp and delight in the slightest sign that we are not alone, that there are other people out there just like us. Instagram is LITTERED with “This is so us”, “This is me”, “Too real”, “So true”, comments. I use them. You use them. We love them. They ARE us. But why the hell do we delight in this so much?
We think we’re all different and then sh*t bricks when we realize that we’re all the same. Think about it, someone with opposing political views has definitely commented on the same Instagram post saying the same exact shit as you. Your ex is on there too, thinking they’re the wounded ones, your mom thinks anything Rihanna posts is so her. …It goes on and on.
And the number one way we’re all the same? No one knows what the hell they’re doing and we’re letting endless articles and blog posts and stories and songs tell us how we should behave and how we should feel. Just because someone else has also has a tendency to black out on rum (omg, just like you) does not mean that the way they choose to love is the way you should choose to love.
Just like with’slacktivism’, people are emotional slackers too. Instead of genuinely being self-aware, we’re letting all the countless articles we consume daily to do it for us. I do this all the time because I am someone who is constantly studying herself, constantly wanting to do better, and constantly hard on myself. The articles make roughing myself up emotionally much easier. I can even be lazy about it sometimes. I’m sure the desire to find true, unabated happiness is less severe for others, but I think that to varying degrees we all want to find the life we think we want and we think we deserve.
I want to have the key to true happiness for each and every one of you. But I don’t. And most people online don’t either, but it is nice that they want to try. I think the most important thing we can do is really try to learn about ourselves through therapy, through journaling, through meditation, through mistakes, through memory–the list goes on. I guess this is what I meant by saying we were going to have to actually “live.”
I’m not suggesting you stop reading the fun “I found true happiness selling manure and you can to” articles. Actually, I am encouraging you to continue, but while being careful not to fall down the rabbit hole. Take breaks, pay attention to what makes you happy and write it down, notice patterns. Maybe you will see a pattern forming that tells you that really do love manure. Then take that manure article and use it to enhance your new life as a bespoke fertilizer designer.
We need to stop the mindless consumption of “This Is Why You Are Sad”, “This Will Make You Happy” articles and make sure that we are consistently looking inside and taking note of what is actually there, not what we wish was there.
But, of course, only you know what’s best for you.