I was listening to NPR (WNYC) yesterday and happened upon a fascinating interview with a Dr. Robert Lustig. He's a professor of pediatrics. His new book is about how we have all been hijacked by cell phones, technology and marketing plus how we are deliberately being manipulated by large corporations.
As a father of a 12 year old daughter, I'm very alert to what cell phone usage can and may be doing to her. As an adult we have a healthy dose of self control and are (usually) better able to control our use of technology. Children don't necessarily have that ability yet. Access to technology is to a large extent killing creativity in children because every form of entertainment is instantly accessible via their screens. I have instituted screen free Sundays here in my household and it's actually a very rewarding shift since my daughter and I tend to do more things that we used to do when she was younger (and without a phone): cook, craft, play games, read and get outdoors.
The most disturbing part of the information that Dr. Lustig provided was this notion of 'pleasure' and 'happiness'. They are two distinct things that are handled distinctly in our brains. We are constantly on the quest for happiness but, are being led down that path by short term doses of pleasure. Constant checking of social media feeds and hyper connectivity provide us with those pleasure triggers. This is very similar to pushing the button on the slot machine and that little kick it provides each and every time to the gambler. Our pleasure centers are overloaded but, no where in there is there any happiness. Happiness can't come from a thing, website or shopping experience. The messaging and marketing we are constantly exposed to though always seeks to blur pleasure with happiness by directly promoting 'happiness' when in fact 'pleasure' is being promoted (i.e. in the form of a sugary soda...no happiness in that bottle).
This makes a lot of sense to me when I see people dissatisfied with their lives. Happiness is very elusive and we seek it in all the wrong ways. It's easy to confuse short term pleasure with happiness since. Pleasure can only ever be finite where as the goal of happiness is a long term steady state. This manifests itself all over the place in our relationships, ability to communicate, and how connected we actually feel to the rest of the world. Understanding this trap is important and makes it less confusing thereby allowing us to take steps to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones from this cycle.