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Happiness and the Internet Carlos R. Davalos | Fri, Jul 30 2010 04:00 PM

Are we better off now than we were when we weren't able to Twit and Share and email and text at will?

By better off, I mean happier since happiness seems to be what everyone wants.

According to one study, the answer is yes. The United Kingdom's Chartered Institute of IT in May reported that "people with IT access are more satisfied with life even when taking account of income."

I can't help but wonder if the people surveyed in the study were 13-year-old girls with hundreds of friends on Facebook, 16-year-old boys surfing the 'net for porn, and adults who desperately want to seem cool in a techno-social geek world.

There's no denying that Internet access has its advantages, the foremost being convenience. Living in the age of Internet access means people have faster access to a broader field of information.

But convenience shouldn't be equated with happiness. At least, not long lasting, meaningful and satisfying happiness.

As someone who coaches teens, I've overheard countless conversations that detail the end of a friendship because someone posted some "total BS that wasn't true" and wouldn't take it down from their Facebook accounts.

I've watched adults at parties texting with people miles away while sharing a couch with four other people, and not a word uttered among them.

And I'll be the first to admit that I exchange gossipy texts and e-mails during excruciatingly dull stretches of council meetings and other civic events.

But I don't know that the Internet and social media makes people genuinely happy. If anything, e-mails, texts and Twits give us more ways to ignore people - either the people who are right next to us at the time or the people whose email we forget to answer. Not much happiness there.

And despite what defenders of social media will argue -that the Internet and networking sites give people a sense of community - they can't deny that, ultimately, it's the time we spend with real people in real surroundings that gives us the moments that create a sense of happiness and well-being.

Think I'm wrong? Then ask yourself this: When was the last time you were really happy or content? Was it while you were with a friend or relative and just shooting the breeze, or was it while you were sitting at a keyboard tapping away an especially witty post or text message?

You can send your answer to me by e-mail or posting it to my Facebook or Twitter accounts.


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