According to data scientist Seth Stephenson-Davidowitz, Google searches are a more accurate indicator of our innermost thoughts and emotions, because people believe they are anonymous on the internet. Well, in light of the recent developments of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, people are more aware of the issues of privacy, and if you haven’t, certainly you would have been bombarded by companies asking your data consent, to opt in voluntarily, instead of being opted in. But the latter concerns over privacy also are a breeding ground for spam. Wait to receive “opt out” messages from spammers who then ask you to fill in your account details on their site – beware!
Coming back to the issue of using data trends for insights, people are less inclined to tell the truth face to face or in a survey, because of how they feel it would reflect on them. They may worry about how their innermost thoughts are perceived and the effect it has on others around them. For example, did you know that many adults regret having children? The time and energy devoted into parenting detract from promising careers and pursuits. But yet admitting this would be akin to telling a child “I never wanted you”.
The problem with modern life is that we have to manage a lot of contradictions. For some, children are a source of happiness, but they detract from our own and cause us unhappiness. Ever seen an adult who wanted to do something but couldn’t because he or she had to stay home with the kids? In the 1980s, work was rebranded to look cool, to be able to do the thing you enjoyed most as a career, but for many the enjoyment of work is not as what it seems. We don’t necessarily do the things we enjoy, just the things that give us the financial freedom. Enjoyment is secondary.
The whole thing points towards a big, fat disconnect between the way our lives are going and the way we want them to.
And disconnect breeds mental stresses and health deterioration in the long term.
It is my opinion that society is walking towards a social and mental health timebomb.
As companies trim their workforce, and job security wanes, and the stresses of life impact on us and causes us a disconnect between the reality of life and our expectations, what can we do?
We can learn to manage our expectations of life.
There are many things that people around say which are not necessarily true. Things like “You should enjoy your job”, “no pain no gain” and other sayings or axioms that we take to heart but are actually not helpful. Try telling a homeless person “no pain no gain”, or talk about “trading it all in, to do the things you love” to someone who is struggling with job security, with a mortgage and children to bring up. Don’t listen and accept blindly the things around you, because as Seth says, everybody lies.
The second thing you can do is to find outlets for your mental triggers.
Seth’s research into Google data trends suggest that money and climate are high causes of depression. So what if you live in a cold place, and have no money to spend? Are you screwed?
Seek to establish some form of financial security. Spend less, save more. Work towards maximising income and minimising expenditure. Forget momentarily the trappings of modern appearance; we all want to look cool but life involves knuckling down and setting aside the need to look hip. This is how society encourages us to spend – it tells us we need the most modern gadgets and things, the best clothes – but we really need to live frugally, although it is easier said than done.
Find outlets for expression. Listening to music may be cool or great, but it is also receptive, not productive, so too much music can only cause you to feel more stressed. Instead, seek to do things such as learning to draw, or learning the piano, which uses a different part of your brain and allows you some temporary from of escape from life’s stresses and stressors. And learn to channe frustration into something creative, like many other Classical music composers in the past. And something like taking up piano exams could provide a target to aim for, in terms of self-fulfillment, and a diversion from daily life too. It is something meaningful you can do for yourself.
Modern life is about contradiction, and we have to learn to bridge the ever-widening gap. Learning to straddle the two is one of the most important skills we could teach the generations to come.