Howl by Alan Ginsberg begins with one of the most iconic lines in American poetry:
My encounter with the man down by the lake upset me so much, I just started walking up Lakeside with nothing in mind except putting as much distance as possible between me and him.
His harassment had made me so uncomfortable, and totally ruined my idea for the day. All I had wanted to do was sit on the side of the lake and read a book — was that too much to ask? Apparently.
That was my first negative interaction with a Nepali person so far, and it shook me up a little bit.
I have to be honest: it took me more than 100 days to complete the challenge (Reflections from Day 50 on August 31). I started the 100 Happy Days challenge on July 7, 2014, with a picture of myself using a tyrolean traverse to cross Boulder Creek. I finished with a picture taken on opening day at Beaver Creek Resort, just five minutes up the road from my home here in Vail, CO.
Anyways. I started on July 7, and I finished on November 26. There are 142 days between those dates. The goal of the 100 Happy Days challenge is to find something to be happy about for 100 consecutive days. Now, by that parameter, I failed the challenge. But I don’t feel like I did.
Sure, there were a few bad days in those three months, and more than a few boring ones. That’s fine. To be expected, really. The thing that surprised me was, even on those days when I maintained radio silence, I could often find things that made me happy.
I didn’t post them because I didn’t think people would want to see them.
This tendency, to me, tells a very interesting story about the way we mediate our own happiness through the perceptions of others.
I should have realized that audience would play a role in #100HappyDays due to the fact that the challenge took place on social media. However, I started the 100 Happy Days challenge with myself at the front of my thinking. As the challenge progressed, my thoughts evolved from “what makes me happy?” to “what should I show other people?” I began curating an image without even trying.
Image curation is one of the most annoying aspects of social media. Everyone decries Facebook as a false front; everyone continues to participate in a charade they all decry. “He’s not really happy in that picture! I know that because I posted 12 smiling selfies in the last week but I’m miserable.”
Happiness seems like the ultimate goal of all the young people I know. Not money, not love, not a career: more than anything, I hear “I just want to be happy.”
Some observations about my 100 Happy Days:
- 3 pictures depict billiards or pool tables
- 4 happy days relate to alcohol
- 7 percent of pictures relate to skiing
- 9 percent of pictures relate to rock climbing or bouldering
- 9 percent of pictures feature my family or depict family events
- 14 percent of the 100 happy days pictures feature my girlfriend
- 18 percent of the pictures show me (not always smiling either!)
- 20 percent of the photos involve travel
- 66 percent of happy days pictures were taken outside
- Money is mentioned only once
This list is makes too much sense. It’s actually a little disappointing to me that this breakdown reveals exactly what I like. A person who knows me fairly well could ID me just from that breakdown.
It’s nice to appreciate the simple things in life, but we all appreciate our hobbies anyways. I had hoped that the #100HappyDays challenge might reveal something about me, about my everyday, that I had never realized before. This hope, really, was at the heart of my participation, I think. After all, one photo a day isn’t a big commitment to put against potential insight. But I can’t say with a straight face that I got nothing out of it.
Refocusing your attention and perspective on positivity is an exercise that will never hurt you.
It is a “lifehack” which is absolutely foolproof. It is worth being here. It is worth being ALIVE. And being reminded of that cannot be considered a bad thing.
There’s a reason this cataloging of good or happy things over a period of time is a common activity given to depression patients as part of their therapy. However, the psychiatrist asks her patient to write in a journal, a secret place– a safe place– free of judgment. Beating depression or “seizing the day” or whatever platitude you are pursing is always presented as an achievable goal because it is entirely within yourself.
When you put your inner happinesses and successes out into the court of public opinion, things are suddenly very different.
This is where the 100 Happy Days challenge becomes a much tougher subject to get a handle on. Who is the 100 Happy Days Challenge for? If it is for us, the participants, it would be more effective if performed online. And it can’t really be for the audience, can it? Not when everyone is all-too-aware that those people who appear insufferably happy on social media only incite spite.
The people who heavily use social media are not usually the people who are genuinely sympathetically enthused that things are going so well for you. The existence of #100HappyDays actually makes every day sadder for these people, in some tiny way.
I had a number of friends mention the challenge to me in person. Usually the reference was in passing, or in a slightly joking tone. None of these people engaged with my pictures often on social media, but they were all aware of them. Which brings up another contradictory facet of the challenge: not receiving likes or comments on a happy experience can actually cause the user to question or revise their own perception of the moment. Which adds complication to the experience.
100 Happy Days– a challenge advocating slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life– is actually adding several additional layers of complexity and unnecessary validation to our every day lives.
Actually, that’s not unique to #100HappyDays. That contradiction defines social media as a whole.
I’m thinking of getting off it entirely.