Are you happy now?

Did you feel happy yesterday? What if we were to ask you the same question tomorrow? Each year, Gallup’s Positive Experience Index aims to gauge the positivity of people and groups in 138 countries worldwide. For three years in a row, Paraguay has come out the most positive country on Earth, and this past year, all but one of the top ten countries in the index were Latin American.

A few weeks ago, journalist Andres Oppenheimer discussed that finding with Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman, an expert in behavioral economics. Kahneman says the result may be due to a freer expression of emotion in Latin American culture. “What is really important is measuring misery,” says Kahneman. “It is much more important for a society to reduce the misery of its population.” How do you reduce misery? According to Kahneman, one good way is to reduce poverty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese days, one of the many perks of affluence is technology. Writing in response to Andrew O’Hagan’s recent New York Times piece, Matthew Ingram admits, “the vast majority of us are better off than we were before the Internet came along.” The city of New York City is working to expand that wonderfulness to each and every one of its residents by repurposing old phone booths as public internet kiosks and having the New York Public Library loan out Wi-Fi hotspots to those who couldn’t afford access otherwise.

At the same time, those of us who’ve been lucky enough to have access since the beginning are already beginning to get nostalgic for the web’s good old days. Simon Owens was overjoyed to find that blogging platform Medium was bringing back a “2006 Dream Team” of old-school bloggers to collaborate on a group blog called The Message. And Kyle Chayka writes for Gizmodo about the Web 1.0 revival, in which lo-tech website like, the ad-free social network Ello, and even Facebook’s new Rooms app aim to recreate the cozy, social-club atmosphere of days even twenty-somethings are old enough to remember.

CCTV_Lens_flareOf course, with great power comes great…something, something. One of the best social correctives of the past week is “Congratulations on Your Opinion” by filmmaker and blogger Stu Maschwitz. Taking as his jumping-off point the use of lens flares in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, Maschwitz deftly skewers the jabbering horde of self-appointed experts who weigh in on every film, film trailer, mixed drink, coffee drink – just about everything – without considering the difference between an opinion and a reaction. Maschwitz parses the difference. It’s a fun read.

Also a fun read? People complaining about things. Linguist Camilla Vásquez has completed an analysis of 1,000 online reviews from Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, Epicurious, and Netflix for her new academic study, “The Discourse of Online Consumer Reviews.” She found many of the reviews “funny and also very writerly,” and that negative reviews were more likely to contain narrative structures than positive ones. Somewhere beyond this life, Count Tolstoy is adding the insight he articulated so long ago: “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Even at a Double Tree Club in Houston.

Balloons of Happiness photo by Egor Gribanov ( via Wikimedia Commons.

Phone booth photo by Brownings ( via Wikimedia Commons.

Lens flare photo by Hustvedt ( via Wikimedia Commons.