There is a new and pervasive trend in social media, and it confronts me every time I log onto Facebook. Every day, thousands of well-intentioned people are taking to the internet to document their “100 Days of Happiness” or #100HappyDays. In an attempt to combat the drudgery of The Grind and encourage people to “appreciate the moment,” everyday citizens are letting their feelings freak flag fly, proudly declaring to the world that they got to sleep in that day or that they “had dinner with their boo.” I see what you’re attempting here, folks, and I applaud the sentiment. But you need to stop.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the premise of 100 Happy Days — maybe you feel like you don’t focus on your own happiness enough in life. Maybe you think that there’s too much negativity on your Newsfeed, and that you need to change that. Both of those sentiments are laudable in their own right, but they miss a bigger point: the 100 Days of Happiness phenomena fosters a faux-positive culture while pandering to the twin pitfalls of social media: narcissism and banality.
Let’s talk about the pitfalls first. According to the website, 100happydays.com, the 100HD challenge “is for you — not for anyone else.” If that’s true, why are you plastering it all over Facebook? Social media is exactly that — it’s inherently social. If this exercise is solely personal in nature, write it down in your Trapper Keeper. Once upon a time, they even made a website that was specifically designed for such navel-gazing — it was called Livejournal. (Remember that website that you used to obsessively post Bright Eyes lyrics?) But if you throw up a photo of your brunch on Instagram with a #100happydays and a #blessed hashtag, you’re putting it out there for public consumption. And if that’s the case, you’re assuming that the public cares. Which probably isn’t the case.
The even larger problem with 100HD is that it encourages, nay, demands banality. No one has 100 exciting days in a row, not even Rihanna or Beyonce. Definitely not you. So while you can feign (or even feel) excitement over the fact that the vending machine gave you two Snickers bars instead of one, the rest of us can’t. Which is kind of the problem with social networking in general, isn’t it? Every day we have to slog through invitations to tend other people’s virtual crops, reposted memes that were originally developed during the Nixon Administration, and all manner of mind-numbingly mundane status updates. 100HD actively compounds this problem by doubling-down on that third category. Imagine for a second that you’ve been transported to a dystopic near-future where everyone on your friends list is concurrently participating in this infernal challenge. What fresh hell would await you every day, logging onto Facebook only to be greeted by a veritable cavalcade of the insipid, the trivial, the nominally positive?
Which brings us back to my first point. 100 Happy Days misses the mark because it draws a false dichotomy between being busy and being happy, and unfairly makes the implication that negativity is so pervasive on social media because people are busy. (I realize that the 100HD people never explicitly state this, but if they’re going to make the assertion that people are “too busy to be happy,” the corollary is implicit.) If you think your Newsfeed is too negative, did it ever occur to you that maybe you have terrible friends? Perhaps you should be hitting the Unfriend/Unfollow button more than the Post button.
Moreover, this obsession with pushing positivity into the public forum overlooks a more fundamental reality: the human experience is inherently dualistic. To focus on the happy to the exclusion of the sad is to do a disservice to both facets of human emotion — we appreciate joy and sorrow in part because we understand them in relationship to each other. To manufacture emphasis on one over the other is to distort reality.
If you want to focus more on being positive, in your life, that’s great. If you want to live in the moment, go for it. If you want to make the world a better place, bravo. But carpet-bombing my newsfeed with all the boring crap you do every day is not making the world a better place. And it’s actively detracting from my happiness. Your joy has become my drudgery. I have no problem with the 100 Happy Days as a private exercise — but I think it should be just that: private. Buy yourself a Moleskin and call it a day. Heck, perhaps that can be Day #1: “Bought myself a sweet journal today.”
I wish you 100 days of happiness… or 365, even. But keep it to yourself, will you?