Hassan Hassan on the pursuit of happiness and other depressing things...
D: I have to tell you what I started doing.
D: But you’re going to make fun of me.
These two phrases popping up on your G-Chat in the middle of a long day are literally the definition of pure joy; a veritable savior at 3pm on a Tuesday. Was it salacious gossip? Had she discovered a new pill? Was she going to tell me about a diet? Was she anorexic? I would be so jealous. I can’t.
Me: You have to tell me.
D: I can’t, you’re going to make fun of me.
Me: Shut up.
D: I started doing Happiness Surveys.
D: They give you surveys to measure your happiness.
Me: I have to do this now.
Basically, what this website does is send you three surveys per day, asking you various questions about your whereabouts, how you felt and how much you slept. In the middle of these questions, they will ask you things like ‘To what extent are you looking forward to the future?’ and ‘how do you feel after you have eaten?’ At first I wondered if this was some espionage tool where they would gather all of this information about me. And then I thought,what could they possibly have to gain with my schedule? Like, who the fuck cares how I feel or how many hours I’ve slept? Seriously, who did I think I was?
So I did them religiously. And D and I would discuss it in depth. One specific question that bothered her was ‘To what extent are you focused on what you are doing?’ to which she’d say ‘I was focused until I was doing the survey. Am I focused on doing the survey?’ I always responded ‘Relaxing/Nothing special’ to the “What are you doing?” question. Also, I never exercised or had ‘engaged in sexual activities’, which brought a very fresh perspective to my current situation. I was tempted to lie lest the website judged me for being lazy/a prude. Then I thought, what’s the point of lying? It’s better to be judged and know the truth. Then I remembered it was a website and it didn’t have feelings.
It became incredibly comforting. It was like someone was asking about me three times a day and I didn’t have to know anything about their day. It was super therapeutic. I felt cared about without having to reciprocate, which is the best kind of relationship. At the end of each one, it would tell me my progress. As it inched towards the 80%, I couldn’t wait to hear everything Happiness Surveys would say about me. Would it tell me I was a psycho? Could I print a prescription? Suggest a diet and exercise plan? Would it give me a list of alternative remedies? Tell me I needed to meditate? Offer me a discount on a gym membership? Tell me I was ok and not to worry? I couldn’t wait. I even tried to speed up the process by taking more surveys (also sometimes I just needed to talk) but I had signed up for three and officially changing the settings would be too much. I didn’t want it to think I was getting dependent.
Then, because it was the internet and not a therapist, I reached 100% and refreshed my email waiting for the results. I had gotten an idea, because D had received her results three days prior, but I refused to believe her. It would be different with me. It would give me answers. Alas, it didn’t. It gave me a bunch of graphs that I was expected to analyse. I already knew I was happiest on Fridays and Saturdays and annoyed on Sundays, Happiness Survey. I’m obviously going to be happiest after twelve hours of sleep. Duh. I was upset and let down. So upset that I would punish them by not immediately taking another one. I clicked ‘Notify me in two weeks’.
Now, I can’t wait for that fucking email, but it would be too embarrassing to go back on my initial response. I wouldn’t want the website/spies to judge me.