by Davide Fioraso
We are exchanging our happiness for comfort. It’s a fact. And as existence has become smoother over time, happiness has diminished.
Let’s take the United States, for example. A nation that represents 23% of world’s GDP. The new houses today are 90 square meters larger than in 1973 and the living space per person, on average, has almost doubled. The number of Americans using the Internet has increased from 52 to 90% over the past 20 years. The percentage using social media has grown from 5 to 72%.
But among these improvements in quality of life, average happiness is decreasing. A gradual long-term decline. And what can be the explanations for this paradox? Are people not informed about the progress? Are they failing to perceive it over the decades? Or are we are taking into account the wrong parameters? The suspicion is that all three hypotheses may be valid.
We do not get happier as our society gets richer, because we chase the wrong things. The things we buy promise to make us more attractive and entertained, social media promises to keep us connected, but none of this brings deep and lasting satisfaction. Moreover, the idea that consumption does not lead to happiness is a pillar of many philosophical traditions (and many religions too). Arguably, Marx’s greatest insight came from his theory about alienation, a feeling that comes from being part of a materialistic society in which we are just small parts a huge machine. A market-based machine.
This machine promised us we will be happy thanks to the next pay raise, the next gadget to show, the next sip of some new drink. In his book “The Happiness Fantasy” Professor Carl Cederström says that companies and advertisers who have promised us satisfaction have instead led people into a wild rush to produce and consume without joy. Material comforts increased dramatically, without giving meaning to life. Empty consumerism is one of the traditional explanations of our modern condition, facilitated by something relatively new: technology. A revolution that has granted us knowledge with just a simple click, the ability to become famous to strangers, to have the object of desire at home in a few days.
Marketing experts know that knowing your brain chemistry, they will probably be able to sell you something, whether you need it or not. But we can resist this attraction. To prevent the forces of modern life from ruining our happiness we must change the choices we make with our resources.
Happy lives are those with strong family ties, close friendships, romantic lives full of lived experiences. The world encourages us to love things and to use people. But we should really reverse this way of thinking.
What will you find on The Pill Magazine 42?
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