Technology’s Contribution to Happiness

Woman 20s sitting on a bench in a park sending a test message on her smart phone

You couldn’t imagine living without the Internet. But would you actually be happier in a less connected world?

Fully 90 percent of people say the Internet has been a good thing for them personally. But the answer to whether or not that means they’re happier, healthier or more satisfied with their lives takes a little more untangling.

The folks over at Happify, an app that features games and activities geared toward improving emotional wellbeing, compiled some of the best recent data on how technology can boost or challenge our happiness.

Consider, for example, that while most people report being treated kindly online, a quarter of people say they have been attacked or bullied. And that 74 percent of couples say that the Internet has had a positive effect on their marriages, but 38 percent report that (for better or worse) online communication makes them less likely to rely exclusively on their partners as confidants.

When it comes to bringing people together, though, the web gets mostly good reviews. Sixty-seven percent of Internet users say that email, texting and social networking has strengthened their relationships with family and friends. And 56 percent say they have borne witness to people rallying together online to help someone else, as exemplified by such touching stories as the movement to “wear yellow for Seth,” the boy with no immune system, the $100,ooo raised to buy a car for a Detroit man who walked 21 miles to work, and the viral photo that got Chester the dog adopted after five harsh years in a shelter.

How does social media affect the 74 percent of adults who use it? As you’d guess, it’s complicated. Social media users are, not surprisingly, less likely to be socially isolated. They’re also more likely to feel a sense of support and are more trusting (which might help explain the preponderance of Facebook hoaxes). On the flip side, social networking is linked to feelings of envy, lower self-esteem and an overall decrease in life satisfaction.

As Happify’s infographic below shows, little tweaks in how you use it can make a big difference.

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Let Spirituality Be Your Guide

Difficulties will arise within all young persons. The time and duration may change, but everyone will experience fear and inhibition. Parents can help ease the burden by treating their children as friends. There is an old saying in Sanskrit: “When your son or daughter turns sixteen, behave with them like a friend.” Parents shouldn’t act like teachers; they shouldn’t tell their children what to do or what not to do. Instead, they should just share their difficulties with them. Be a friend to them – a friend who is at their level. A friend understands them, and pays attention to their emotions and difficulties.

Teenagers should keep their spirituality as a tool always. Whether experiencing inhibition or fear, a strong and consistent spiritual practice will see young adults through both the highs and the lows of growing up. Indeed, spirituality will help students understand that failing an exam is not the end of the world, or that true happiness depends on what their friends think about them.

Students should commit to self-realization. Such commitment can take you across all obstacles; and the greater the achievement, the greater the commitment. The more you commit, the more your capacity to do any work. Commitment is always about shouldering something a little more that what you can do. You don’t say, “I am committed to drinking a glass of water or walking one kilometer”, which you do anyway. Your commitment has to be more than what you think you can do. Commitment is about stretching your capabilities.

There is so much talk about success everywhere. Everyone wants to be successful. Have you ever thought, what success is? It’s simply ignorance of your capabilities. You have set a limitation on your  self, and whenever you cross your own boundary or limitation, you claim success. Success is ignorance of the power of your self because you assume you can do only that much.

You never say, “I successfully ate a banana!” When you put a limitation on something, you are limiting the power of your own self, your own consciousness. Every time you achieve something, you feel proud about it, is n’t it? Actually, you should feel sorry about it. You are just proud of what you can easily do, because you do not know that you can do so much more than what you are proud of. When you are successful, you are proud of it, and if you fail, you feel guilty and upset. Both can drag you out of joy, out of the greater potential that you possess.

So the best thing is realize your success, and surrender it to the Divine. If you are successful,  so what? It is just another happening, another thing that you did, and you can do much more. Through spiritual practice and raising awareness, our youth can expand their limits and move through the obstacles of growing up. We need to work together to move our fears aside, release our inhibitions, and move forward with a smile and grace in our lives. As we let all the thoughts, emotions, and judgments pass by and consciously choose to focus on the joy in our lives, our difficulties will naturally recede into the background as we become light and buoyant, and reflect the light of the Self.

-Excerpts from talks by H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and compiled by Scott Lucas.