We see the photos you share; those empty champagne bottles, your business class seat, you with those brand name accessories, your expensive car, the myriad of scenes in which you flash those exact same practiced affectations of ecstatic glee. Ok we get it, you look successful. There you are again, you’re doing so well, undoubtedly a significant special person worth knowing. Congratulations. You appear happy.
On social media, people are more preoccupied with themselves than they are with you, and this trend of vanity and shameless self-promotion seems to be the norm. However, if you can see through the narcissistic, shallow, carefully curated image, you will likely find insecurity and deep-seated discontent. That’s the sad, underlying truth, literally.
Today, the online profile is a strange phenomenon in which people create a virtual representation of who they want to be and how they desire to be perceived. It’s as if there is an online competition to see who can appear to be the most happy. Life isn’t always great and the emotional rollercoaster must have both peaks and troughs. To brazenly promote the ideals of experienced happiness, it must first be recognised by contrast against hidden unhappiness. I have often wondered where this conviction to only appear happy comes from?
Human beings have been proven time and again to be gullible creatures. We have been told our whole lives that the purpose of our existence is to attain the culturally defined notions of happiness.
Societal pressure on us to conform has us chasing the carrot that we believe will finally be attained when we graduate high school, when we get a job, win that medal, get married, buy a home, or when we are retired holding hands on the beach like old people in pharmaceutical commercials. We are caught in a giant hamster wheel always chasing but never attaining.
Clever marketers have caught on to the way people are motivated by the attainment of defined notions of happiness, and have supplanted their own ideals firmly into our culture. Consumption has become the justification for an existence of striving to exchange paper for happiness. Corporations like Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s have sold us on their ephemeral versions of bliss leaving us hungry, yet thirsting for more.
Naturally, what we are seeing on social media is an expression of societal pressure to conform by confirming the pursuit of cultural notions of happiness. It’s our western culture that we are seeing reflected in the materialistic confirmation of the belief that consumerism will bring happiness. However, in a different society, take for example an extremely religious one, we would see social media posts confirming the expression of the cultural notion that piousness would bring happiness.
For the many discontented people who are unable to buy the materialistic notions of joy and see beyond the facade of social media, the blissful affectations of others online only serves to leave them feeling increasingly isolated and alone in their despair.
The mirages of bliss and contentment in the lifeless deserts of social media are not real, because you will never be happy if you are trying to be happy. You can’t force it, otherwise in trying to hold on to fleeting happiness, the realisation that it won’t last will immediately cause it to dissolve into a bitter, profound reminder of mortality.
In this way, we are hardwired by our consumer culture to be unhappy, and it is the people who conform the most who will be the most miserable. The recognition of discontent from the hollow attainment of cultural notions of happiness and the constant comparison to others only serves to further despair, reaffirming that the best things in life are free.
By all means appreciate the things you work hard for, but don’t let them become a means to an end. True happiness arises out of gratitude, is humble, and is the freedom to fully appreciate the natural unfolding of your life without the constant judgement of whether or not you are happy. Remember this the next time societal pressure comes down on you to surrender to impulsive cultural conformity by feeding your addiction to likes and trying to prove to us your significance, because we will see through it.