How to Create a Happiness Machine

The creepiness of this image followed a reverse bell curve as I edited it. Peak creepiness occurred at the start and end of the editing process.

Raise your hand if you remember Facebook’s mood experiment from 2012? Go ahead, you won’t look odd. Just tell people you are stretching.

Great job.

The result of that experiment was summed up as “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”

Facebook discovered that negative social media feeds encouraged users to post more negative things and positive social media feeds led people to post more positive things. On top of that, Facebook’s researchers discovered that neutral feeds — feeds with neither positive nor negative emotional expressions — led people to post far fewer words and to watch their feeds less often.

Emotion — either positive or negative — is a necessary factor for both content creation and consumption.

We have created the Great Outrage Machine.

We have created the Great Outrage Machine.

I am angry all the time.

I can’t leave the internet alone. This is where I go to find code. This is where I find funding. This is where I play games. Yes, I could go back to the job of using neurochemistry to bankrupt families, and I could pretty safely stop hitting the internet at that point. Well, I could stop using social media.

That would be walking away. While I do endorse walking away when you can only do harm, the Facebook experiment also shows that I can do some good. So, let’s take a bit of Hank Green’s advice, and let’s start doing some good.

It’s easy to become addicted to the attention the Outrage Machine can bring. I love seeing traffic on my articles. I love getting weird emoticons beneath my Facebook posts. I love seeing my friends dog-pile onto some angry post with words of agreement.

However, when my friends walk away from those angry posts, I know that I’ve made them angrier people. They’re more likely to spread anger on social media, and they’re more likely to snap at people out in the really-real world.

Let’s create a Happiness Machine.

Let’s create a Happiness Machine.

I have an assignment for you: tell me a happy story.

The story needs to be recent, and it needs to be happy. It can be about you. It can be about intrepid scientists or teachers revealing some beautiful truth. It can be about some wonderful thing your favorite leader has done recently. If you have a god, it can be a tale of some clear action your god has taken to make the world better today.

It can be banter between friends. I love banter. I love friends making each other happy as only friends can do.

Tell me your stories here, then share them however you can.

Photo by Jessica Florence (https://www.flickr.com/photos/necilbug/)

Here’s my story for today:

The Crooked Thimble is a place where we can build a community free of outrage. A community of joy. When it is working, we have exchanges like this one between myself — the only programmer on our game — and The Innkeeper —an account operated by our artist and webmaster, Briana Dempsey:


Trick Dempsey is the author of Nobody’s Business, a social-media noir set in a world obsessed with celebrity. It may be purchased on Amazon.

You may follow him on Twitter or check out his game and media studio: The Crooked Thimble.

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