Is there a relationship between Internet Usage and Happiness? That was the research question of my project called the Virtual Happiness Project. As you might remember I spent the whole month of December being offline, just to experience what that did to me and the people around me.
I was asked to talk about my experience during TED University this year. So, here are the slides of my presentation and the written out version of my talk:
Could you live without the Internet?
Ask yourself that question. Could you live without the Internet for a day, for a week, for a month or langer? And what would you do?
I asked Seth Godin, who is also a speaker here on TED and he answered: I’ve thought about that, I’d have to open a restaurant. What an amazing answer, to an intruiging question. Why am I interested in this question? it’s is because I myself went completetly offline for the whole month of December 2008. No google, no email no surfing. no nothing.
The most fun thing I ever did… at least that’s what I thought during the first week. It was funny, it was hilarious, people were sending me hand written letters and pulling al kinds of practical jokes on me (like hiding my keyboard and mouse).
But than in the second week all the attention dried up and there I was … alone behind my desk with a huge problem. The simplest things became hard to do and I regretted my experiment at this time.
But then in the third week I experienced an immense feeling of peace of mind. I had tons of energy and have never been more productive than in that single week. I wrote half my book in this period.
Than the fourth week came… I was torn apart between feelings. Because believe me- I missed the internet tremendously- but I really liked this quiteness, this ability to focus on just one thing. So, here I am back in the digital jungle and you’re problably wondering why I did this experiment.
Well, it’s part of a research project that I’m leading. We try examine the relationship between internet usage and happiness. Because the data shows that internet users are in fact happier than non-internet users. This is the result of a study in 25 European countries with a N of 18.000.
What this tells us is that de benefits of the Internet make up for the disadvantages. Because there are. Have you also noticed these TED-sters who are constantly checking their blackberries or laptops? Not only between sessions, but also during talks….there seems to be a magic line between them and the office, right?
Now, what we did was come up with a model that visualizes exactly the situations in which Internet usage is a driver for happiness and the situations in which the internet is just making you sad.
So, with my experiment in mind and also the results of this project. The kind people of TED asked me to share with the audience 5 ways that the internet can make us happier. Grab your pencils, here we go… Rule number 1
#1 Don’t take your Blackberry or your Iphone into the bedroom.
But seriously, if you insist on bringing something, consider a new stimulating pair of boxers or a nice lotion to give somebody a massage.
#2 Accept that there is more information than you can possibly look at
This is crucial. For example. It you search Google for the word “information” you get over 3 billion results. The thought of not being able to look at all these pages causes stress and eventually leads to depression.
Teach yourself to look at 3 resultpages maximum! If the answer is not on those first pages, you clearly don’t know what you’re looking for.
#3 People are better than machines
So, if you realize that there is a gap between your question and a million answers. You should rely on social filters more. Always think that there were thousands of people before you with
the same question. If you use sites like del.icio.us or Twitter for example, chances are that the result you get is much more for YOU than from any other site.
#4 Know when to go online and when to go offline
When do you call someone? When do you send a text message? When do your write something at someone’s facebook wall. And when do you jump in your car to pay a visit.
Think about this for yourself. But remember that digital communication
always is an ENABLER for real communication, not a substitute. The best emails I get are the ones that say “Yo Jim, let’s have lunch this Friday. Same place?”
#5 And I would like to end with the suggestion to charge a cost price of 1 CENT for every sent email
– not only will it force us to THINK before we hit the SEND or REPLY TO ALL button
– but we will also gain 1,5 hours productivity a day
– It will help ISP’s to finally come up with a businss model
– and on the other hand, the average household with 20 emails won’t have any trouble paying these 20 cents a day.
AND finaly the best reason… is that we rule out SPAM immediately.
because they will never sell enough Viagra or Penis Enlargers
to pay for this million dollar investment.
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