Happiness in the 21st century means using contemporary technology
While policy is a good idea, it takes time, sometimes years or decades, to make a difference. Meanwhile, social media is fast -- you know this, because this is a problem when you post something incredibly stupid and everyone sees it before you realize it. When it comes to happiness, there's a huge opportunity there: helping people track and share the things that make them happy.
Dr. Viswanath collaborated on a study in Hong Kong where investigators called more than 4,500 people to ask about their level of happiness. Imagine your surprise getting a phone call like that, when you thought you were going to be offered volcano insurance. Respondents were also asked if they smoked. The findings were intriguing: of non-smokers, current smokers, and ex-smokers, the ex-smokers were the happiest group. Wouldn't it be logical for someone to be happier without dirtying their lungs with smoke in the first place? Apparently not. "Ex-smokers experienced a sense of accomplishment, efficacy," Dr. Viswanath theorizes. "That sense of accomplishment is something you can amplify through social media."
There are already a bunch of apps out there designed to make you happier, and they often include a social media element where you share your successes. This delicious chocolate cake that I made myself made me happy! Or getting out of bed at 5am to work out made me happy! Whatever floats your boat, right? Now Harvard is going to come up with loads of new research and figure out how to put it to work through social media.
"We have not been very good at taking studies on happiness from the scientific world and translating and communicating them to change both policy and practice," Dr. Viswanath points out. "This is an incredible opportunity for us to say, how can we amplify our findings and reach out to people where they are?" Hopefully that happens in your lifetime!