2. Connect: A study entitled "Very Happy People" found that the one thing that distinguishes the happiest 10 percent of people is the strength of their social relationships. If that's true, then mobile group-chat apps, GroupMe and Fast Society, are making us happier. But whether the connections are long-lasting, like those fueled by GroupMe, or one of Fast Society's short-term flings, these connections foster well-being.
3. Track: Life tracking can have many positive effects on your well-being, on everything from your pocketbook to your health. Startups like Mint, Recycle Bank, and Voyurl can help you track your spending habits, green action, and browsing patterns.
4. Order: Technology has the power to order relationships, schedules, responsibilities, interests, and tasks. We can organize all of our daily deals into one place, collect our thoughts on virtual sticky notes, and order (and even share) the things we love. These virtual tools systematize our lives, creating efficiency and clarity amid the digital and physical noise.
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But technology isn't just a happiness-producing machine. While technology presents opportunities for greater happiness, it also brings some not-so-happy scenarios.
So let's examine the four dichotomies of digital happiness:
1. Connect vs. Disconnect: A recent study links social relationships and mortality, concluding that individuals with strong social relationships have a 50 percent greater likelihood of survival compared to those with weaker relationships. The magnitude of this effect is comparable with quitting smoking and it exceeds that of obesity.
So, we've established that connection leads to happiness and disconnection leads to loneliness (or even death), but can too much connection actually impede on happiness? Some people argue for periodic "media fasts," a sort of technology cleanse where one refrains from using as much technology as possible for a set period of time. The Sabbath Manifesto and the National Day of Unplugging are committed to slowing down lives. In the Media and Identity class I teach, I ask my students to abstain from as much technology as possible for as long as possible. Some go cold turkey, while others restrict it to only a single social media channel. One student cut himself off from Facebook for 24 hours and nearly had a panic attack. What is the value of this sort of disconnecting? In solitude, we find stillness. Disconnection can create an "in-between" place -- a sacred space -- that fuels creativity and identity construction, and ultimately makes our re-immersion into the connected life that much richer.
2. Give vs. Take: Indian University professor Edward Castronova has announced the emergence of a "fun revolution," predicting that if the "real world" wants to remain unchallenged (and relevant), it will need to become more fun. Some have declared gaming the future of social media, but is it the future of socialization? Individual success in social gaming is rooted in gift reciprocity. Crops are watered, soil is tilled, and berries are planted, all in the name of neighborly love. Showing gratitude and participating in random acts of kindness are regularly cited as two of the most happiness-inducing activities. Which means there are a lot of virtual farmers experiencing real happiness.