From self-help books to the latest pop song, happiness is today’s good and righteous goal. But what is happiness? It is often confused with fame, even the low-level fame that social media affords us, gathering “followers” and massive amounts of “friends”. At a glance, even the most humble of lives can read like glossy magazine adds. “What do you post to Facebook? Pictures of yourself yelling at your kids, or having a hard time at work? No, you post smiling photos of a hiking trip with friends. You build a fake life — or at least an incomplete one — and share it.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Arthur C. Brooks writes: “Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?” At fault is our misunderstanding of evolution. While fame and fortune make it more likely our genes will be passed on, because it does make us more attractive, nature does not care if we are personally fulfilled in the process. What is natural and what is pleasurable are not necessary good. In fact, they rarely are the same.