“I’m really starting to think that nobody is happy,” says an old and trusted friend on the phone. “I think that everyone who is married is just sticking it out, maybe faking it. They are hoping to be happy one day.”
I have thoughts on culture and the notion of “happy” in this post: The New Status Symbols.
The question “are you happy” is everyplace. We can see it in pop culture:
- “The Generation X Syndrome”: Author Douglas Copeland: 30-somethings are searching for deep meaning, or giving up the question entirely. The approach of Copeland is more dark and raw, revealing the sad interior of a 30-something.
- The American hit-sitcom Friends: The approach taken by the writers of “Friends” was more bright and raw, revealing the universal longing and sense of aimlessness of the 30-something, but layered in laugh-out-loud comedy. Not to be unkind, but my friend on the phone (whom I quote at the top of this post), is the Ross Geller.
- A more current correlation, Michael Scott (The Office): At the same time we are amused at the familiarity, we are laughing at our own selves. We are punch drunk by what the mirror reveals about the human condition — our individual, isolated, unguided, frustrated, cynical, and morally relative lives.
- Social networking sites allow us all to voyeur on everyone else. We are constantly and helplessly comparing our lives to those of everyone we know with one question in mind, “Are they happy?” . . . “More than me?” . . . “They’re not really that happy.”
- 1 – 4 are the fallout of the party mentality. Adults are suppose to have grown out of this, but media tells us that we haven’t.
The social network site phenom is a symptom, but not merely so. Consider the means that are available via social media to ask personal questions and learn personal answers without the threat of asking and answering.
Also, consider that we can ask and receive answers without them knowing, without them self-editing, without them casting a “halo-effect” to their responses.
. . . and so the fact that we can status, tweet, post, or file-share so conveniently, casually, and with frighteningly little scrutiny . . . the fact that the mood of culture allows us to be discussing and honest in public ways simply because we’re being honest. We are free to discuss how sucky our life is. [Otherwise, we boast about how extravagant it is and no one believes it. We are immediately dismissed.]
We are always reminded, and in turn, we are always reminding everyone else, how dull and mundane, aimless, meaningless, and painful our lives are–even when we present it in humor or with a bright exterior.
We are free to speak our minds, no matter what; and no matter it’s effect.
However, others only hear us when we do it in a funny, clever, bright way. The popular mood says that someone may point out how pathetic I am, so long as they do it in a jovial way. The implication is that we are all living aimless lives and we are all idiots sharing the same brain. No matter what they say, it will never damage our friendship. Does this actually work in real life?
- We are generally unhappy, and it is not because we are unable to be happy and should therefore abandon the pursuit. (Click here, for my post on depression in America)
- Secondly, we are talking openly and freely about being unhappy because we are able to talk so openly and freely about it, not because unhappiness is our only fate and we are helpless to change it.
- The sense of being unhappy is entirely biblical and only biblical Christianity can offer the answer. (see part II)