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Happiness is … some time alone, away from Facebook


Gallup has found the happiest man in America. Really. Using statistics, they concluded that the following characteristics make for ideal happiness:

He's a tall, Asian American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year.

And, in fact, there is such a person. Continued, from Booster Shots:

Turns out there is one individual who fits the bill: Alvin Wong, 69, a Chinese-American who keeps kosher (he converted to Judaism). And yes, all the other factors check out -- including his living in Hawaii, the Gallup-appointed happiest state of them all.

Of course, there are other ways to arrive at happiness. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David would advise against the "stop-and-chat," as would researchers at the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis. Others would challenge themselves to complain less, and not to complain at all for one week. Op-Ed columnist Meghan Daum would suggest signing off of Facebook, which she feels is the "ultimate performance space" for people itching to brag about their wonderful lives. Those watching on, however, suffer repeated blows to their self-esteem. Such is the topic of her Thursday column, "Do you suffer from Facebook envy?"

Drawing on studies of Stanford students and their assumptions about the relative happiness or unhappiness of their peers, researchers found that humans consistently overestimate how much fun others are having and underestimate their unhappiness.

The study had nothing to do with Facebook, but it quickly became associated with the coinage "Facebook envy," largely because the lead researcher, then a doctoral student in psychology, reportedly got the idea from watching his friends' interactions with the social network.

The more time they spent clicking through joyful announcements and photos depicting happy events, the worse they felt about their own lives.

I've walked into this very trap and let Facebook ruin more than one afternoon. Like when everyone in my age range was changing their relationship status to "engaged" several times a day for two solid years. (I seemed to stop noticing these updates after I got engaged, changed my status and posted the photo of the hot-air balloon where my husband-to-be popped the question.) Then again, Facebook has exposed me to lives outside of my own, inspired my imagination and motivated me to seek experiences I otherwise might not have known about.

Aside from spending less time on Facebook in an envy-induced, soul-crushing state, there are other ways to achieve bliss. The Boston Globe's Leon Neyfakh has a compelling argument for embracing the "power of lonely."

In a world gone wild for wikis and interdisciplinary collaboration, those who prefer solitude and private noodling are seen as eccentric at best and defective at worst, and are often presumed to be suffering from social anxiety, boredom, and alienation.

 But an emerging body of research is suggesting that spending time alone, if done right, can be good for us — that certain tasks and thought processes are best carried out without anyone else around, and that even the most socially motivated among us should regularly be taking time to ourselves if we want to have fully developed personalities, and be capable of focus and creative thinking. There is even research to suggest that blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life — that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we should make sure we’re spending enough of it away from them. Just as regular exercise and healthy eating make our minds and bodies work better, solitude experts say, so can being alone.

In his research, he found that solitude has been linked to some of the following:

-- creativity
-- spirituality
-- "intellectual might"
-- more accurate memories
-- greater empathy
-- freedom from self-consciousness

I don't know if I'll spend less time on Facebook, but I'm into this loneliness thing.


In praise of snail mail

A better way to sell the perks of aging to young people

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Illustration: happy/sad faces. Credit: Rueben Munoz / Los Angeles Times


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Color Me Gone

I may be the last person on earth who doesn't have a Facebook account. I like my privacy and find no need to post pictures and information about my life. My friends and family already know about what goes on in my world and I know what goes on in theirs. Private emails and phone calls supply all that's needed. Facebook reminds me of all those crushingly boring letters that people used to include in their x-mas cards telling you all about Aunt Sallys gallbladder operation and Little Sammys successful potty training. I didn't enjoy hearing about that stuff once a year from people I knew, let alone, going on Facebook and reading it all the time. What do you all find so fascinating about each other?


Having reached a certain age and having worked in the news business, I
value my privacy and so do not post much of anything over on my Facebook page. And I have one only because, at one point, it was "the thing to do."

Now, I can admit that it does have a bit of value, as in the case of one relative
who keeps in touch with a network of people she knows whose children, like hers, have a particular medical condition.

But I also have an old acquaintance who uses it ONLY to let everyone know about her vacation, her house, her new car, her kids, her, well, on and on and on. And she constantly posts photos of herself, too. Exactly as reported today here on LAT, one of many women "more likely to base their self-worth on appearance and use social networking to compete for attention." Except she's NOT 23.

In the old days, we'd only see that shameless bragging once a year in that tired old Christmas letter, if then. But we'd never see -- like at least once a week -- how much she thinks she still looks like Kim Kardashian, even at the age of 45.


Wow. What is it with all the Facebook bashing as of late? Sounds to me like the ones who complain about it and are such haters probably don't understand how to use Facebook properly and have done stupid things to get themselves unfriended. Just so much sour grapes.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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