Today’s Depressed Consumerist Generation

How many people, do you think, go on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube in a mindless trance: clicking and scrolling through their news headlines, without any real reason for doing so? What percentage of people who click on on Facebook does this behaviour account for? 50%? 70%? 90%? What has created this behaviour? Do they do it because they’ve unconsciously created a habit that gives them a little “dopamine hit” when they check their newsfeeds again and again? I don’t believe so. I believe that they do it to distract themselves from their feelings of insidious and unrealised depression. But why are they depressed, I hear you ask? They’re depressed because they live in a consumerist world that continually reaffirms what they don’t have, rather than what they have. Every advert, slogan, piece of marketing tells us that we don’t have something which will make us happy.

Rather than spend our time with distractions – the pills we take to try to hide our symptoms – we would be better off spending time to treat the cause.

If, when our minds are still and we have nothing with which to distract ourselves any more, we ruminate back to the things we don’t have: of course we will be unhappy. We start to think of the things we don’t have, and we tell ourselves we’re unhappy. And then we’re unhappy, we remind ourselves why: because of the things we don’t have. As long as we’re in this cycle of thinking, we will forever be unhappy.

The trick to end unhappiness isn’t in trying to stop our journey towards unhappiness. This will always bring us back to stopping the reasons for why we’re unhappy, with two solutions: trying to ignore them (distractions), or satisfy them (but there will always be more reasons for why we’re unhappy waiting in the sidelines to replace those we’ve just satisfied). The trick to end unhappiness is to start our journey towards happiness. Start remembering all the things that we’re grateful for in our lives. Remembering all the things that make us happy.

Humans are silly creatures. We’re always focusing on things we don’t have. We create plans – some of which span years of our life – to try to attain things that we haven’t got. We spend years of our lives, building companies and working in companies to work towards some great vision that resides in our own heads. And when those plans are successful, we have more plans. More incomplete goals.

If we’re constantly focused on our progression, it’s easy to miss what we’ve achieved. If we’re constantly reminded of what we lack, it’s easy to become blind to what we have.

Learning is Context Dependent

I’ve been sporadically returning to the same book for 10 years now, and every time I read it, I learn something new. Why? Because the context with which I read the book has changed.

If you present a skyscraper to an ape, he will see a big rectangular object. If you present the same skyscraper to a human architect, she will see the steel material choice for structural support, the stresses in each of the joins, the beautiful glass exterior that shrouds the object.

What is the difference between the ape and the architect? They are looking at the skyscraper with different context. Years ago, I read the book and I understood parts of it. I could see the shape of the object. But I was still an ape. Then I went out and saw the world, I gained more context to revisit the object and see it in a new light. Every few years I revisit the book and view it in a new way. With greater context, I can see the nuances of the book. I tend towards the architect. We can never truly become a complete “architect” (this is where the analogy breaks down a bit), because we will forever have wisdom to be added to our context with which we see the world. Still, it’s refreshing to think that we wake up (or live, moment to moment, depending on your increment) each day to view the world in a different way than yesterday.