There are two very insighful, almost jaw-dropping surveys making their way around the web. The first survey by the University of Chicago shows that personal misery among Americans is at its highest levels since the early 1990s, with people saddled with woes over healthcare, unemployment, paying bills and romance. A second, seperate survey indicates that U.S. Consumer Confidence is back to its pre-Katrina levels, indicating that Americans are likely to spend (and consume) more.
I think one survey is feeding the other, despite the apparent contradiction. The first poll shows that for a broad array of reasons, both externally — the War, the economy, the inconsistent weather, the natural disaster — and internally — the poll also indicates that Americans’ stress level is at an all-time high, America is in a state of malaise, just like the nation in the late 1970s.
How have we responded? Like a heartbroken lover, ready to indulge any and all of our materialstic desires. We’re depressed, but maybe, just maybe that new XBox can pull us out of the dolldrums. We’re stressed, but maybe, just maybe a new Plasma TV will get the monkey off our backs.
Unfortunately, this binging will not make people’s lives better. I am reminded of Carl Sagan’s meaning behind the book that inspired the movie Contact. More technology — technology that is advertised to us as being able to bring happiness and less stress to our life — actually moves us further away from our intrinsic desire to be happy. There is no special meaning in BlueTooth or WiFi, but don’t we worship at their altars.
More stress, less happiness, more technology. Just the thought of it all makes me want to get up and walk over to Crescent Lake park. Enjoy your afternoon.