A new social network — Happier.com — is described by the New York Times as “a place to just celebrate and share the small moments of happiness in life.” The site allows no negativity, and encourages users to focus on even the smallest of the happy-making moments. More than one million happy moments have already been posted by more than 100,000 people with comments ranging from, “Watched a movie with my son,” to “I had an amazing first date”.
There is some evidence that Facebook and the like actually, fairly often, bum us out. But it’s not the negativity of Facebook and Twitter that’s a turnoff — it’s actually the opposite. It’s all of the good news that can seem insufferable. Clicking through someone else’s vacation pics — that water is so blue! those tacos look so delicious! — from some florescent-lit cubicle is understandably depressing. Looking at the never-ending barrage of park/party/cocktail references might make you feel like you’re the only one who never gets invited to anything. Ditto hearing about people’s career-related success: how come you didn’t just graduate from law school or publish a memoir about your harrowing first 25 years on the planet?
But perhaps what’s most interesting about Happier is how it presents a perspective on living a happier life that lacks nuance. Being content and satisfied with your life doesn’t just mean blocking out the negative and focusing on puppies and kittens and pretending there’s no such thing as a lousy day. Fulfilment often requires that we embrace pain and defeat and sometimes pure sadness in order to keep moving. Living a happier life means embracing life’s full spectrum of experiences, not suppressing the things we would rather not think about.