(Un)Happiness Culture

I’ve recently discovered that there are apps to boost one’s happiness.

Now, for people that are unhappy (not the same as depressed, I’ll emphasize), that could very well be a good thing. But it seems like there is a sudden prevalence of apps, techniques, articles, studies, and so forth that are all aimed at teaching people to be happier.

I have no beef with happiness. I like happiness. I am all for happiness. But I have a few questions.

Are people actually unhappy?  Or am I just seeing a lot of happiness focused ads because I meditate and do yoga and I’m likely part of some demographic for some advertiser somewhere?

If people are actually unhappy, then why? I see a lot of people on my Facebook feed participating in gratitude and positivity challenges, which are, incidentally, a way to increase one’s happiness. But I have no idea why these people are unhappy (but then again, why would I? It’s not like they post about that on Facebook, which, as research is now showing, itself makes people unhappy).

Which brings me to this question: Does our culture create unhappiness? Is the happiness trend a form of backlash against unhappiness culture, or a way to monetize it?






2 thoughts on “(Un)Happiness Culture

  1. Alex DiBlasi

    We are a very unhappy culture, I have no doubt about that. Our culture is set up in such a way that we’re on this endless feedback loop to gratify and satisfy ourselves, where the moment we’re no longer stultified by the latest trend or tech toy, something else comes along. It’s like the world keeps putting another baby rattle in our faces when we start grimacing again.

    Turning happiness into apps is, I think, an attempt to blatantly profit off how miserable we truly are. It keeps us bound to the world, attached to it, a distraction to prevent us from thinking too deeply about why we’re really here.

    Or something like that. 🙂

    1. V. Willis Post author

      I think some of it is blacklash against our unhappiness culture, too, though. For the apps, I’ve decided that free ones are backlash that are subverting our culture with genuine positivity and do-gooder-ness, and the paid apps are profiteering. Which is a little reductive, because I still have to pay for things like meditation books, but as we both know, it’s like the authors are making money there. Hahaha!

      I actually tried some of the apps. Personal Zen is supposed to retrain your brain (and it uses science!!) towards having a positivity bias. It’s free and pretty good, but a little boring. That’s okay, though. Happify gives you all kinds of little activities to do–like gratitude activities–and you have to pay to unlock the full potential of the app. Whatevs.

      What worries me about things like positivity, and the new positivity culture, is that I don’t necessarily want to look on the bright side. There’s a lot in our culture that should make us angry, and there’s no upside to rape culture and racism and our other institutionalized horrors. I don’t want to be positive about that. I want to be angry. I think we all need to be angry. Happy, yes, I want to be happy and personally fulfilled, but I’m still mad as hell, too. =)


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