There are those who see everyone’s constant stream of tweets, Instagram pics, and Facebook posts as a sign that the rise of social media has created a culture of self-promotion that’s gotten out of control.
And they may be right, to an extent. But what if all of those dinner-plate photos and tweets about weird things that happened during your commute actually made you happier rather than more detached?
A new study, published in Psychological Science, from a group of Harvard Business School researchers led by Ting Zhang suggests that there is value to capturing the mundane moments in life. According to a summary of the study, “Rediscovering Our Mundane Moments Brings Us Unexpected Pleasure“:
In one study, the researchers had 135 college students create time capsules at the beginning of the summer; they wrote about a range of different experiences they recently had, including the last social event they attended, a recent conversation, three songs they were currently listening to, and an excerpt from a final paper they had written.
For each memory, the students were asked to predict how curious and surprised they would be to read about it later, and how meaningful and interesting they would find it. The students “opened” these time capsules three months later, at the beginning of the following school year, and rated the memories again.
The results showed that students had significantly underestimated their curiosity and interest in the time capsules, findings that were echoed in a second online study…
A final study revealed that only 27% of participants chose to write about a recent conversation over watching a video of a talk-show interview. However, when it came time to decide which one they’d rather revisit 1 month later, 58% of participants chose to read about the conversation they had had.
In an email, Zhang tells us that she wants the main takeaway to be that we should not take the present for granted, even if we’re just going through an ordinary day. She writes:
We tend to overlook the present moment as worthy of being rediscovered in the future. However, our studies show that we are often wrong: what is ordinary now actually becomes more extraordinary in the future — and more extraordinary than we might expect. So, it’s not that people necessarily enjoy rediscovering ordinary moments more than extraordinary moments — it’s just that the ordinary moments are what we tend to undervalue.
Basically, the findings suggest you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re compelled to blog about your day, tweet about what you had for lunch, or Instagram that photo of a pretty sunset. The post may come in handy when you’re in a bad mood sometime down the line.
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