This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.
Happiness has been a fixation of human culture for centuries. It is, in one way, what separates humans from other living organisms—the idea that one might move beyond survival to attain a state of happiness. But what does it mean to be happy? Happiness is “the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his life favorably” (Veen Hoven, 1990). In this sense, it is an attitude towards life. But it is not simply attained through state of mind. Some suggest it has less to do with absolute quality of life and more to do with the relative quality of one’s life in comparison to his/her expectations of what life should be (Easterlin, 1976). Others assert that relative happiness is a false construct accompanied by misleading evidence (Veen Hoven, 1990). However, most researchers agree that environmental factors play an integral role in determining happiness. And in the age of mass communication, environmental cues are often taken from the media. Thus, some researchers argue that the influence of popular media plays a fundamental role in determining happiness (Richens, 1995).
I intend to explore the way in which happiness can be defined in American culture and the way in which popular media influences personal happiness.