Is technology making us unhappier?

"Is technology making us unhappier?" Just writing down this title makes me feel like one of those bitter old people who complain about everything young’uns do. "Your generation didn’t have to go through a war", "you kids have it so easy", "when I was your age I was making a million/year and had four children to support", etc. We might not have had to go through war, but older generations haven’t had the misfortune of having their entire past available at all times. How typical of my generation to whine about those things that make life easier for us, huh? Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as everybody, but lately I’ve been thinking about its negative effects in our emotional well-being.

After my Great Laptop Crash (GLC) of December 2013, I hadn’t found the right moment to go through the files that could be saved on my external hard drive until last week. I spent nearly an entire afternoon going through all the folders, deleting duplicates, working out what had been lost and, generally, confronting my past. MSN Messenger conversations from the early 2000s, embarrassing photo collages from the fotolog times, drawings old friends who I can no longer call friends made for me, scans from my collage notebooks, old stories, texts with cryptic meanings that invariably talk about quarterlife crises and trying to find happiness in the wrong places, my grandfather’s last christmas, the carefree years, the whatever years, the what-to-do years, even part of the high school years, every essay I ever wrote at university, photos of people that have left my life, photos of the people I love wearing baggy jeans and looking extremely young, all the files from my old blog, photos of things I thought were cool but aren’t, photos of things I thought were funny but aren’t, photos of things that are actually fucking hilarious. And looking at this made me extremely sad, and not a nice and nostalgic kind of sad, but the worst kind. The good things were making me sad and the bad things were making me sadder. Okay, I was premenstrual, but still. Is it really healthy for us to have access to all of this at all times? How can we move on when our past is so accessible? It takes effort to dig out the box of old journals and the heavy photo albums, but it’s almost impossible to avoid flicking through computer files, wanting to see everything.

I left most of my old journals at my parents’ home when I moved out because I don’t want to have the temptation to drown in them. I tend to be more creative when I going through difficult emotional moments, so everything I’ve ever made is charged with meaning. Every text I’ve ever written is full of analogies and metaphors for my own feelings that made me feel exactly like I did at the time of writing them. I don’t want to throw them out like I did with my teenage ones (a decision that I don’t really regret because I only ever wrote about people I knew and no longer care about), but I feel like some sort of restricted access is necessary for me to retain my sanity, and the same goes for digital files. Having school mates, exes and the fabulous internet people (you know, those one whose lives seem to come out of a magazine) a click away is enough. I can’t block people from the Internet (although I wish I could), but I can stop myself from having my past lying around all the time. That’s why, after going through my hard drive and organising everything, I left all the files right where they were, on a hard drive that I barely use. If I ever want to see them I know where they are, but my laptop only hosts files created in the past two years. Right now focusing on the present is the only way of moving forward.

Happy Jawbreaker day. Three years ago I wrote a blog post over at my old blog in which I explained how listening to that song on repeat all day had totally cheered me up after a long day of endless, aimless jobhunting that had left me feeling overeducated, underskilled and depressed. The poster child of the go-nowhere generation: 27, lost, still living in the parental home, medicated and feeling identified with fiction written with a teenage audience in mind. Thankfully a lot has changed since then, mostly in unexpected ways, but there’s one thing that remains; this song still has the power to make my day. So I stand by what I once said: If every day was Jawbreaker day maybe I’d be happy all the time.