Exchanging Empathy for Happiness: The Social Media Effect.

By Revival Ojedapo

Sometimes we need words of encouragement to make us feel good. Sometimes we need to learn how to be happy again, and the internet is filled with countless quotes on happiness. There are picture quotes, one or two line long, written to make us feel better through tough times. Everyone has something to say about “being happy”, and “being happy at all cost”.

It is a blessing to have inspirational quotes at our fingertips, isn’t it? Just a Google search, and you’ll find myriads of sayings on the pursuit of happiness. Some are excerpts from works that are well researched and substantiated by the passage of time. In a novel by Robert A. Heinlein, this quote on happiness stands out: “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own”. Similar sayings abound on the internet. Their message is designed for an all-round betterment of mankind. On the other hand, there is a trend of mostly anonymous quotes, also preaching happiness, but at the expense of empathy. One example is: “My mind is more peaceful when I don’t care about others” Quiet apt, and equally powerful, but you can easily see the contrast between the first quote and the second.

When you read the latter, you can easily dismiss it as harmless; on some days, it could actually be the perfect thing to read to set your mind at ease. It is true that we live in a world where good deeds are not immediately appreciated, and we can rightly feel the need to put our own emotional well-being first. It is all right to find peace and happiness for ourselves first. After all, we can only give what we have. However, could there be a risk of developing a dispassionate regard for others?

Nowadays, kids start enjoying social media at very young ages, and are exposed to all sorts of contents from the internet. Many parents have taken proactive measures to censor their children’s activities on the internet, forestalling offensive and adult contents. However, there’s the propensity to overlook seemingly harmless quotes, especially when they’re embroidered with beautiful images. Children are rarely shielded from quotes that encourage “happiness at all cost”. The search for happiness starts from childhood, and our whole lives can be defined by what we grow up reading.

It is definitely not a bad idea to instill self-confidence in children, and also encourage an healthy dose of self-love in them. But, this task is often whisked away from the hands of parents, and put in the hands of, mostly faceless, trends and ideas. It is a given that everyone deserves happiness, most especially children; but it could be detrimental, leaving them to pursue immediate happiness without considering consequences. Matured minds have a stronger filter for these things. They see a dangerous quote, they can quickly detect unscrupulous tendencies within, and dismiss adequately. Nevertheless, there are several adults who also fall victim to the whims and impulsivity of such quotes.

It is an unfortunate irony that happiness is thought to be achieved by showing apathy. It is true that we live in a cold world, and goodwill may not be repaid; but we will be defeating the goal of humanity when we encourage a general disregard for every other person but ourselves. Perhaps, we can take solace in the “paradoxical commandments” expounded by Kent M. Keith. Among several other commandments, he wrote this: “people are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway”.
Empathy and happiness are not mutually exclusive.


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