13 May Happiness, technology and…boredom!
In my professional (and, for that matter, my personal) life it’s not hard to accept (given my job title and the name of the organisation I founded) that pretty much everyone knows I’m fascinated by happiness and by what makes for a happy life. Most people also know that I have a very strong interest in technology and social media, not just for the sake of it, but mostly as it relates to happiness and wellbeing.
Accordingly, I’m frequently asked about my thoughts regarding technology and specifically, social media, particularly in terms of their influence on happiness. One question I was asked recently touched upon this, but taking a slightly different angle enquired as to whether or not the increasing use of mobile devices, and the always available information and connectedness, made us more easily and often sated or more hungry and never satisfied. Further, how did this impact on our levels of boredom and what, if any, is the relationship between boredom and happiness?
Good questions I thought!
First, let’s recap some findings upon which I briefly wrote in a previous post; and that is that although there may well be a “dark side” to the internet and specifically, to social media (that is, not everyone’s entirely honest online and some people may well use their computers to hide behind so as not to have to venture out into the “real world”) for most people in the majority of instances computers and the internet and more recently, mobile devices such as smartphones, provide opportunities to connect and access information that otherwise would be impossible or extremely difficult to access or collect. And in the majority of cases this improves quality of life and enhances existing, “real world” relationships and activities.
At the same time, however, this does not address the second part of the question which asks whether or not the speed with which we can now access information has negatively impacted upon our levels of happiness and satisfaction via a constant hunger or thirst that can never be satiated.
There may well be some validity to this argument as there’s no doubt that expectations have changed in recent years. Where a letter might have taken a week to arrive at its international destination some years ago, and hence taken 2-3 weeks for a response to arrive back at the original sender (once read and considered and then responded to, etcetera) now emails and other forms of messages can be and are sent and responded to literally within seconds. Where as a visit to the library might have taken hours (or maybe even days), in the pursuit of a vital piece of information now, an online search will find thousands of times more information again, within seconds.
So what happens when we don’t have our needs met or questions answered within these incredibly short time-frames? There is, undoubtedly, a risk that boredom or dissatisfaction may well result.
But is this the fault of the internet or the mobile devices or of any of these forms of media? Surely we should be careful not to shoot the messenger!
Rather, I’d recommend we appreciate the incredible wonders of information technology and use all the various devices and programs, hardware and software, to achieve the incredible things they can help us achieve. But, and there’s always a “but” isn’t there, let’s make sure we take the best out of this and avoid the worst. How? Well here are a few thoughts…
Beware of unrealistic and/or unhelpful expectations; ask yourself whether you really do need a response in milli-seconds or whether, in fact, you can wait a bit longer for that other person to get back to you
Be discerning when it comes to the digestion of information gathered online and ensure that the sources are credible and reliable
Don’t allow online time to totally replace or overwhelm “real world” time; turn your devices off every now and then (even if it’s just for a day or a few hours on a weekend)
And don’t allow any parts of your lives to become boring. Set yourself new challenges on a regular basis and ensure that you try new experiences that keep you and your life interesting and fresh
There are risks and potential negatives associated with almost anything, including mobile technology and computers, but that doesn’t mean we should throw out the baby with the bathwater! Use and enjoy your mobiles and apps but remember that at the end of the day they should only be tools to help you find more happiness and to live a better life!