The average smartphone user has 42 Apps on their device and if you are a teenager, chances are that number is north of 100. They are so ubiquitous we are all now intimately familiar with the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and the corresponding behavior associated with them i.e., eyes glued to the screen, ignorant to one’s surroundings. I often wonder as I sip my morning coffee if Starbucks caught on fire and was burning down to the ground anyone would even notice. And for all you dog walkers at the park who never once look up, I wish the dogs were clever enough to navigate you right into a tree to wake you up to the present moment awareness. Joking aside, eyeballs on a smartphone screen is so pervasive now in our culture and, sadly, wholly accepted.
But with all the Apps and technology integrating into our daily lives, there is a parallel trend on the rise too that is far more alarming. Anxiety, stress and depression have escalated, manifesting in troublesome ways such as insomnia, chronic pain, migraines, obesity and overmedication. Put another way, technology is booming as we are simultaneously becoming less happy; An inverse correlation between App and hAPPy that is creating a deeper divide. There is a clear link between the two as we, ironically, are becoming more socially isolated despite all these powerful methods technology offers us to experience connections.
We are all witness to the fact that technology is exploding exponentially and is obviously here to stay. Therefore, the dilemma, with the personal onus on each of us, is how to harness this ‘new normal’ without allowing it to adversely impact our lives. It takes discipline and self-control, especially when everyone around us has seemingly surrendered to its powers. Look around you (yes, you, look up from your phone!), we have lost our ability to embrace the moment and live in the present as we no longer pay full attention to our surroundings. We are also substituting text messages and Facebook friends for deeper relations, mistakenly feeling satisfied with these shallow connections. It is a tragic form of Emotional Anorexia, feeding on crumbs and pretending to feel satiated as our souls crave far more nourishment.
What we are all gradually learning is that sustainable happiness cannot be found on our phones, laptops, or any technology. Sure, a swipe left on Tinder may bring momentary joy but even that euphoria fades. We need to go deeper, and I don’t mean friending every acquaintance you know on Facebook. Happiness comes from within; it is derived from meaning, having purpose, feeling fulfilled, on a daily basis. It is whatever reason you are excited to rise out of bed and face the world. It can be service to others, passion for a hobby or creative outlet, family or even just your pet. There is no App in your Smartphone for that.
As you ponder what offers you this depth of happiness, note that the source doesn’t necessarily translate into pleasure. A nurse or social worker can often work in challenging conditions, yet they find fulfillment in living for something larger than themselves. In fact, altruism typically resonates as the highest form of happiness. Happiness is not a hedonistic pursuit but rather one that offers purpose and connection to the world, a reason that makes you feel your life matters.
Technology has undoubtedly made our lives more comfortable but it can create adverse effects with massive implications if we let it control our lives. Use it as a resource, a complementary tool to make you more productive and efficient, but not as a primary source for happiness. You don’t need to download an App for hAPPiness, that gift is already inherent within each of us.