Social Media Doesn’t Equal Happiness

There’s nothing shameful about experiencing suffering or dissatisfaction in our lives. The Buddha taught in the first and second Noble Truth, that life is ultimately dissatisfactory, because not only do we constantly crave for something better, but we aren’t able to feel satisfied once we finally attain the things we’ve desired. If we live our lives with the expectation that life will be rosy, pleasant and secure one day, then we’re ultimately fooling ourselves because unless we address the primary reason for our dissatisfaction (our mind), nothing is going to change and our experiences will continue to be unsatisfactory.

In essence, our days and lives are unsatisfactory because of the way we perceive the world and the expectations we have about the role of happiness in it. Further, our dissatisfaction arises because everything is impermanent by nature, so its ‘pleasantness’ can only last so long.

When we see people post their ‘highlight reel’ on social media, we shouldn’t feel jealous or envious of them. Instead we should ask the question, ‘What makes them feel the need to broadcast this to the world? Isn’t their experience alone, satisfying enough? Do they need the ‘likes’ of others to feel happy? Are they trying to make someone in their contacts jealous or envious of them?’ You might find that behind the happy façade those people are riddled with insecurities and a feeling of dissatisfaction for their otherwise uninspiring life.

Rather than feel envy, it’s better to feel compassion for people who may be posting to simply bolster the image they want to portray of themselves or to validate their own existence. Of course it’s true that some people might post photos of themselves simply to share it with family members who want to see them, or they post them as a means of documenting their life. But even if their motivation is not necessarily unwholesome, we can still feel compassion when we understand the fleeting nature of their happiness in the photo or status update, and how soon it becomes nothing more than a fading memory.

If we want to post on social media, instead of posting our latest photos of ourselves sipping a cocktail on some island, consider posting inspirational things to motivate others to look for deeper meanings in their life, or to find in themselves a greater connection with humanity. We don’t have to promote activism, but if we could help people escape the narrow window of their own lives and see how they fit in the bigger picture, this can foster an understanding of the interconnectedness of us all and help to breed greater kindness and compassion among humankind.

The other day one of my teachers said jokingly that when people ask us, “How’s life?” we should say without hesitation, unashamedly and even with a smile, “Unsatisfactory!” This is the true nature of things! This is how we will continue to see the world until we start walking the path of cultivating non-violence, meditation, gratitude and wisdom.

We shouldn’t be afraid to lose ‘fair-weather’ friends because we are willing to be honest. However, rather than posting such honest messages, (since our motivation might not be so wise or wholesome), better still is that we are simply willing to be honest with ourselves and accept that this is our present situation; we can fully acknowledge it, without needing to hide from this powerful truth. Having dissatisfaction in our lives is not a reflection of our success or not, but to be honest about it is a measure of success; it is a measure of wisdom!

Once we have reached this level of honesty, assessed our state of affairs and seen that there has been nothing permanently satisfying in our lives and there never will be (since everything is subject to change), we will find the motivation to cultivate happiness in the way of the past Sages. Happiness didn’t come from them pursing happiness in the outside world and completing their ‘bucket lists’, but from mining the treasure of their happiness within.

When you feel the time has come to escape our delusions of finding happiness ‘out there’ we have truly begun to walk the path of the wise teachers.


“Just as, O Bhikkhus, the Great Ocean has but one taste, the taste of salt, even so, O Bhikkhus, this doctrine has but one taste, the taste of release.” ~ Buddha

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