I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s contentment that I’m after. Not happiness, simply, but contentment. It’s taken me a long time to get to this, but the truth is that “happiness” has never felt like my goal. Furthermore, it seems impossible to attain. I could never wish for a permanent smoothing out of my emotional terrain, because I think some (maybe a lot of) sorrow is part of the deal for me. But I’ve written about a new, sturdy sense of joy that underpins my life in the last year or two, and the best way to describe it is, I think, as contentment.
The sentence I kept coming back to was this one:
Interestingly, nonarousing emotions like contentment are negatively associated with sharing selfies or other content.
I love the image of contentment as a “nonarousing emotion” and that is entirely resonant for me. What I’m after, at this point in adulthood, is a life defined by being peaceful and placid, something I recognize would seem boring to a younger person.
I am on Instagram, I love Twitter, and I’m on Facebook. I’m certainly not against social media and in some cases it brings me joy. So I’m not sure how I feel about the assertion that sharing content is associated with “arousing” emotions. I’m not a big selfie fan (or sharer) but I do share photographs (often of the sky) and tweets. I also know that nonarousing emotions are what I seek.
Is this inconsistent? Maybe it is. After all, I’ve written many times about the famous Whitman lines, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” I do like some aspects of social media, though not selfies. I have also never really struggled to put my phone down, in literal and metaphorical ways. I don’t have a hard time turning away from the online world to engage with the real one, on the whole. I could definitely do this better – I reckon almost all of us could – but it’s not a source of major tension for me. Maybe this is part of why I don’t feel super emotionally conflicted about this point.
I don’t have a neat conclusion to this post, but I’m curious about what you think. Do you agree with the statement that sharing content online – particularly selfies – is negatively correlated with nonarousing emotions? Do you think being on social media by definition means one leads a less contented life? I’m not sure, and I’d love to hear your reactions.
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