Happiness Apps: Actually a Huge Bummer
Apparently, the time has come to put the “app” in “happy.”
Happify is the most recent attention-getting example of the proliferating category of Web-based services whose goal is to improve your mood and general outlook: It’s an app (and an online platform of sorts) that promises to make you happier, by funneling the relevant “science of happiness” through the latest technology.
Other examples include Happier, Happy Habits, MoodKit, TrackYourHappiness, SuperBetter, and GPS for the Soul. Throw in tech tools aimed at meditation, mindfulness, and so on, and there’s enough material for an annual conference on the subject.
(And, in fact, there is an annual conference on the subject. It’s called “Wisdom 2.0.”)
The underlying problem is spelled out in a stressfully long and detailed infographic created by Happify. Basically, we are worried and anxious, especially about work and money, and it would be good for our collective health if we could spend more time laughing, bonding with friends, and exercising. Who could disagree?
C’mon, get appy
The real question is whether apps, games, and other digital tools are actually a useful response. So to familiarize myself with the general idea of app-iness, I signed up for Happify. I was surprised to find that it wanted me to register through Facebook and, even when I didn’t, encouraged me to make my activities public within the Happify community. (“Hey everybody! I am unhappy, but working on it! Online! Wanna watch?” I don’t think so.)
Anyway, I answered a short questionnaire evidently designed to dope out my general emotional state. And when I was done, Happify said it had just spotted an old friend across the room and would be right back — then disappeared forever.
Kidding! Actually it herded me toward the first of many Happify exercises, which involved noting (and “cherishing”) three “victories” during my day: “These need not be ultra-magnificent game-changing shifts, just any pleasant surprises that brightened your day and made the journey seem worthwhile. … Anything that lifted your spirits, even for a short while.”
At 9 a.m., when I signed up, all I could think of was my wife’s generous offer to run some stuff to the post office for me. So I typed that up. By the time lunch had come and gone, I was wondering if I should just add, “Our dog is so cute!” or “Nice weather today!” But that seemed pathetic.