Inflated “happiness” posts on social media make us more miserable

Whenever you check your social media feeds you see them. Positive affirmations, pledges of 100 days of happiness and gratitude lists.  Cluttering up our feeds are protestations that happiness is “my favourite cup of coffee,” or, “watching the dog run in circles in my backyard.”

Sorry, what?

It has been suggested that Generation Y was “helicopter parented”, wrapped in cotton wool and mollycoddled into thinking “everyone deserves a prize”.

“In school and in sport everyone is a winner,” says mum Amity Dry. “We shower kids with praise to build up their self-esteem but in doing all of this are we creating a self-entitled generation.”

Is falsely inflating the positives in life actually holding us back?

Radio newsreader Geoff Field recently noted that contestants on The Voice were consistently given inflated praise on the show, being told that, “you are a superstar, destined for international success.”

“Anja Nissen’s debut album sold just 1952 copies,” Field says. “It’s time for the judges to stop telling them they will be superstars, or as I heard one judge say several times, a ‘worldwide artist’.”

“If the expectations are too high and the reality low, it can cause so much damage long term,” noted one of Field’s followers, Kristine.

Do forced “positive” social media posts make us miserable?

Journalist Radhika Sanghani decided to do 100 Days of Happiness after seeing it online on her social media feeds.

“Unfortunately, my 100 days of happiness did not result in any of these outcomes. Instead, it made me feel incredibly unhappy.”

The UK writer says that because the forum was social media, she felt that she was being ‘false’ or ‘forced’.

“Most of the time it felt like I was contributing to the idea that we all have a social media ‘brand’ – a carefully edited version of ourselves,” she said.

Psychiatrists warn it’s important to “get real”

Oliver Burkeman wrote a book called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

“[Research] points to an alternative approach [to happiness]: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid,” he says.

He believes that it’s important to value the tough experiences in life, rather than blindly focusing on “false positives”. He says this could actually help stave off depression.

“This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.”


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