Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Is Modern Life Making It Hard To Be Happy?

A few weeks ago, I remember doing my daily reading of the news and thinking, "another day, another suicide story" :

modern-life-stress-image
Image courtesy of geralt {{CC0}}
1) Shirley Jensen

2) Rachel Gow

3) Elizabeth Outram

Then of course, there was the recent story of Willkes Mcdermid.

Now, it could just be the media picking up on a trend which meant these sad stories were at the forefront of the news, but there were a lot of similarities in each story.

Recently too, I've been meeting new people or reflecting on people I do already know/once knew. I always thought I was way more messed up/emotionally damaged than most, but from what I’ve observed there are a lot of people who are deeply unhappy, stuck in a rut or dealing with a lot of their own baggage. They may appear to have it together on various social media outlets, but half of what people put on these sites is misleading; even major depressives can convince people they're doing great, with boasts about their general goings on.

[On Smoking] I’m sorry, but it calms me down. I tried painting but I kept painting my own tombstone and the teacher said I was bumming everyone out.” – The Mindy Project

Depression, it seems, is the common cold of mental health.

Here are some reasons why I think people are a lot more unhappy these days, and how modern culture is affecting certain areas in our lives in a negative way:

Modern Communication (And Its Effect On Relationships)

There’s a growing theory that a lack of social relationships is a major root of depression. Makes sense to me.

I’ve gone on about this before, the way online relationships (both romantic and platonic) now seem to be a convenient and preferable alternative for a lot of people… at the expense of an actual relationship.

Social media platforms have taken away the need to interact face to face, and I think this lack of real interaction is affecting people more than they realise.

Sure, it can be easier to communicate certain things behind a computer screen, especially if you’re the shy or inarticulate type. But human beings are social by nature. I feel we all, to a certain extent, need intimate relationships and the company of others, otherwise it’s a slippery slope to isolation, seclusion and depression.

Frustration and internalised anger seems like a common theme in a lot of the stories that have been hitting the headlines lately… it makes you wonder, if they had the right people to communicate with, perhaps they wouldn’t have felt so lost, alone and desperate. 

In the past, if you had a problem you could talk it through with friends and family. Now, as society is becoming more introverted and self-obsessed, people only really care about themselves. This decline in empathy, alongside a rise in narscisism, I feel is a result of people’s dedication to online pursuits.

In this age of instant communication, we now have lost the ability to communicate properly at all.

Modern Jobs

modern-job-stress-imageIt’s now more fact than news that permanent jobs or stable, long-term employment are currently very difficult to come by. A link between unemployment and depression, even suicide, is nothing too surprising either, unfortunately.

But even if you are employed, the corporate slave lifestyle fails to make many people happy and they struggle to adapt to it.

I remember reading the following comment on an article once: "women can’t hack modern life because it’s too stressful".

An appalling generalisation, of course…but if I compare my own university peers, who have gone on to find white-collar work since graduating (it’s pretty easy to keep up with their professional lives courtesy of LinkedIn), it seems the men have fared a lot better. And I don’t think it’s because of inequality in the workplace.

For example, a lot of my female contemporaries haven’t lasted longer than a year in a role (I haven’t even managed that). Meanwhile, the male graduates I know from uni, who studied similar subjects, have managed to stay in their roles a lot longer.

Whether this is down to luck at finding a permanent position, or because they are more thick-skinned and able to stick out less-than-desirable work situations because they can cope better, I’m not sure.

Modern Housing

I feel exhausted even thinking about it.

Thanks to rising property prices, the dream of owning your own property (unless you’re earning megabucks) seems likely to remain just that: a dream. As such, we are now aptly described as “Generation Rent”.

Getting on the property ladder also ties in with your job and employment status. If the latter is unstable, there’s no point even going there.

But then there’s this dilemma: where there are jobs does not necessarily mean there are affordable housing options. And where there are affordable housing options does not necessarily mean there are jobs.

With so many problems in today’s society, it’s tempting to view the past with rose-tinted glasses and forget about the struggles that people living in that decade faced. But it’s hard not to be nostalgic of a time when things were simpler, less expensive and not so fast-paced and technologically advanced.

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