...the subjects who reported having the happiest lives were those with strong family ties, close friendships, and rich romantic lives. The subjects who were most depressed and lonely late in life—not to mention more likely to be suffering from dementia, alcoholism, or other health problems—were the ones who had neglected their close relationships.
Empty consumerism and soulless government are the traditional two explanations for our modern alienation. These days, there is a brand-new one: tech. The tech revolution promised us our heart’s desires: everything you want to know at the click of a mouse; the ability to become famous to strangers; anything you want to buy, delivered to your door in days without you having to leave home. But our happiness has not increased as a result — on the contrary. Mounting evidence shows that media and technology use predict deleterious psychological and physiological outcomes, especially among young people.
Consumerocracy, bureaucracy, and technocracy promise us greater satisfaction, but don’t deliver. Consumer purchases promise to make us more attractive and entertained; the government promises protection from life’s vicissitudes; social media promises to keep us connected; but none of these provide the love and purpose that bring deep and enduring satisfaction to life.
Marketers know that if they can grab hold of your brain chemistry—get you in a state of “hedonic consumption” in which your decisions are driven by pleasure more than utility—they can probably sell you something, whether you “need” it or not. But we can resist advertising’s pull on our emotions.