Yesterday’s New York Times has a provocative glimpse into a “happiness conference”: Even if You Can’t Buy It, Happiness Is Big Business
It got me thinking about the driving force behind this blog: happiness and the web. The article doesn’t mention the web, but for almost 15 years, the web has been a bulwark of happiness for me. In the early days, it was a release from a difficult situation and the tendrils of despair. At times I even wonder if the web saved me. Now it’s part of what conference experts label “sustainable eudaemonia.” In other words, these days (with the bad years long gone) it remains a sure way to augment everyday peace of mind with happiness. And that’s with it now being my day job. Wonder of wonders.
But what is it that works this magic for me? It’s not surfing, and it’s certainly not email. It’s not hardware, nor software much either. Rather I notice it most in two ways.
First is the sheer wonder of the things people do with the web — and how it’s there to be shared. Humanity takes the bedrock of web standards, and from them creates the most astonishing things: elegant web apps like Backpack and Google Analytics, clever communication tools like change.gov and Twitter, everyday fare like RSS feeds and handsome sites, and most of all, the powerful search engines and knowledge banks that tie this super-abundance together.
But even more, I can feel that surge of happiness in the act of creation — when I jump into the web not as a spectator, but as a participant — when I’m building websites. It doesn’t matter if it’s for myself or for others. Nor does it matter if it’s a new site or an overhaul of an old site. It’s the fusion of HTML, scripts and databases; it’s the rhythm of code, save, refresh; it’s learning the latest techniques; it’s catching an unexpected glimpse of a site I helped build; it’s the teamwork and appreciation of others. And it’s other evanescent aspects…. “A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud.”
So fleeting, but so sure.
And you? Does the web bring you happiness? I’d love to know.