The downside of feel-good stuff! How the endless streaming of ‘positive’ content on social media affects our lives.

Imagine seeing a rainbow. You see it, get excited, but it is so short and brief! If only you could see it often.. Now, imagine seeing a rainbow everyday! Would you be as excited on seeing it? What do you think?

Before marriage, a couple dreams of spending all of their time together. After exchanging wedding wows, a couple saves their marriage by spending at least some time apart!

What is happening? We are being human. That’s it. We surprise ourselves in how we respond to our own fond beliefs.

One such fond belief is in the power of feel-good stuff to create positive energy in our life. So strong is it that we willingly flood our consciousness with the positive stuff – positive quotes, heart-warming stories, cutesy images, funny videos, ribtickling jokes. Social media is awash with the feel-good stuff.

Every morning you wake up, the jokes & the motivational quotes have already queued up for you. Every official engagement ends with you checking your phone and getting onto the feel-good ride. You cherrypick the special stuff and selectively share it with whoever you want to be positively connected with. You bask in the instant motivational high you experience on reading about a miracle comeback. In that moment, you believe that anything is possible. And then, the moment passes. You are onto the next message, bring it on!

With all this positive stuff around, how are we responding? Here are a few things I have seen, learnt, and experienced.

First, the endless stream of feel-good stuff is not letting us truly be in the moment. If there is a time to be sad, it is the time to be sad. That is being in the moment. Does this realization make you uncomfortable? Not long ago, in an age of less distractions, we were well and truly into the moment. Now, somebody shares a heart-felt recollection with us. But, we are not with the person.Our mind is flippant, made so by the crass but delightful online humour we caught on to just before meeting this person.

Second, we use the feel-good nature of this stuff to interrupt whatever it is we are doing. Trainers like me also get the excuse that every feel-good titbit is potentially useful for training delivery. We completely lose our discipline and fool ourselves into reading everything that is out there. A person who is crazy-busy at the moment gets a message alert and if the message is from someone known for sending hilarious stuff, this person will instantly declare he or she needs a break and go through the message. It is so very easy to rationalise and justify our interruptions. Afterall, we are stocking up on all the relief, motivation and inspiration that will keep us going through the day. Little do we acknowledge that the stocking up derails our plans, disturbs our agenda, and undermines our disciplined pursuit of the day’s work.

Third, we get so addicted to the easy feel-good stuff that we do not get down to the hard do-good stuff. Think about it, without contributing anything of your own, you will still get all the positive stuff coming your way. The supply is free, assured, and endless. Like a drug, it gives you an instant high. Keep the dosage going and you are on a permanent high. What that does to you is that it makes you conveniently drop the idea of doing something on your own. For that would be hard work!

Rare are the people who read the feel-good stuff and then go on to doing something. Of course, there are people who claim they have got on and off, that is; they have surfed, done things, and got back to surfing. The simple point is that when you do, you do. You turn the tap off. The people who make things work all rely on the foundation of discipline. The discipline of being in the moment. The discipline of sticking to the task. The discipline of shutting off all distractions.

Fourth, we have so much of the feel-good stuff that it becomes harder to truly feel good about it. Not to mention the fact that we don’t want to just end up feeling good, we want to also do some good. That, of course, becomes even more unlikely.

There was a time a couple of decades back, when people eagerly awaited the Readers Digest. In the pre-Internet era, the magazine was known for collating and sharing stories,jokes,and anecdotes. The magazine came out once a month. And the feel-good stuff lingered on for that time. Less was more.

Now, simply because the source is endless, we do not bother.

The things we see every day are the things we never see at all – G.K. Chesterton

We do not experience the power of the feel-good stuff anymore. We are getting immune to it by the day. We are de-sensitised. Only a moment of truth makes us realize it. In my social media feed, I have a Chennai-based friend. When the worst days of the recent chennai floods were over, she put up a very blunt post. Her message in my words was, ” Cannot register likes and comments. Staying afloat. Got real work to do in getting life back on track. Helping ourselves. Helping others.”

I doubt if people trapped during the floods would have drawn solace and succour from the feel-good stuff on their phone, even if they had the ability to access the net and keep their phones charged. The overwhelming sentiment that Chennai residents conveyed about their ordeal was this, ” With everything gone, we were left with ourselves. We got in touch with ourselves, with the reality of life around us. We got together. ”  With everything gone, people came out to do stuff. They helped and volunteered.

If, in their darkest hour, people draw from within; isn’t that an invitation to reconsider what role the feel-good stuff plays in our lives?

Let me end by saying, we all need feel-good stuff. We need our share of fond beliefs, sweet delusions, wild fantasies, and crazy notions. That is what makes us human. Also,what makes us quintessentially human is to continuously explore meaning and purpose in everything we set out to do. We should always do good. But, we should never stop exploring the nature of good, never stop being curious about what makes something good and other things bad. We must find a place for feel-good stuff, but never stop exploring what in the name of feel-good stuff is happening to our own lives!

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One thought on “The downside of feel-good stuff! How the endless streaming of ‘positive’ content on social media affects our lives.

  1. Tanmay Vora

    Discovered your blog today through a list on Twitter. I read this post with great interest because I have been ruminating about it too.

    With social media in general and motivational insights in particular, we are on a consumption treadmill. If so many people know so much about the art of being happy/effective/whatever, why are we still a discontented lot? It just tells me that we need to consume less (read mindfully) and create more.

    Here is my take.

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