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Happiness Through an iPhone?

I’ll admit it – I’ve had iPhone envy since they came out a couple of years ago. I’ve had the minimalist cell phone for what seems like forever. I’ve always liked gadgets, so that made the iPhone all the more tempting.

My studies of Buddhism, mindfulness, the psychology of happiness and well-being and so on all told me that the iPhone wouldn’t truly make me happy. BUT I found myself wanting one anyway. I saw so many of my friends and clients with their iPhones. “What? You don’t have one? They are so cool! You HAVE to get one!”

I joked with my friends and clients – “I will get an iPhone soon. And only then, will I FINALLY be happy.”

Well, I broke down and got one a couple of weeks ago. Okay, I LOVE IT! It is an amazing piece of technology with an endless number of uses. There’s well over a 100,000 apps for it now. I could literally spend my entire life acquiring apps that will simplify my life. My wife, who wasn’t going to get one, saw how much I liked mine and bought one as well.

Am I happier? Well, not really. I do have a zillion ways to distract myself now though. So, if I need to get my mind off of unhappy thoughts and get some mind-candy, I have ample ways to do that now…accessible at all times too.

Still, there is a difference between distraction, pleasure, and joy. True happiness will never be found through an iPhone or any piece of technology. I spoke of the “hedonic treadmill” and “hedonic adaptation” in another post on Does Money Buy Happiness?. Basically, whether it is a new car, the dream house, a promotion, winning the lottery, and, yes, an iPhone, we habituate to these “things.” We habituate to most negative events rather quickly too (e.g., job loss, not winning the big competition, even chronic, debilitating medical conditions). Humans are very good at adapting – it is what we do. If we didn’t do it well, we wouldn’t be here!

While the iPhone is great a providing distraction, I fear that such technologies can sometimes be counterproductive in helping us to achieve happiness. I believe that a true source of happiness comes through acceptance of the present moment as it is – to liberate ourselves from the “clinging” that we are so inclined to do (i.e., wanting more beauty, fame, wealth, cars, gadgets, status, romance).

With so many distractions at hand, how can we become accepting of what is? How can we learn to separate ourselves from the incessant mind-chatter that causes us to regret the past, worry about the future, and keeps telling us that the grass is greener on the other side? To be able to sit with our thoughts and feelings, appreciate a sunset, the full moon, the warmth of an embrace, the complexities of dark chocolate…that is where we will find true happiness. Hey, I think there’s an app that will help us to do this…and I’m not even joking!

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