Dogs vs Phones - or - Comfort vs Meaning
As humans, we’ve reached a point in time where comfort is easily found. Our smartphones provide us with food (postmates), sex (tinder), dopamine (instagram), and endless distraction from the dullness of existence. As a species, our comfort level is at an all-time high, and we value it accordingly. (Millennials place comfort and relaxation both as top-10 values according to Gartner)
But we know from research and experience, that comfort does not bring happiness. Emily Esfahani Smith says "happiness can’t be pursued, it must ensue, it’s the byproduct of leading a meaningful life. There is research that shows that when we chase happiness and value it in this obsessive way as our culture encourages us to do, that we actually end up feeling unhappier, it makes us feel lonelier. Whereas if we do things that we think are meaningful, we’re left with this deeper sense of well being and contentment.”
Unfortunately, we’re not valuing or pursuing meaning as we should. Millennials only place purpose/meaning as their 30th value.
And that makes sense. Comfort is easily understood and easily attained. Meaning sounds hard. Responsibility, purpose? We have to leave our apartment for that. We have to get off our phones for that.
But the smartphone is our digital security blanket, providing emotional comfort and security in a way that has never been so accessible before.
It provides distraction from the pain and dullness of modern life. It’s an excuse to avoid awkward in-person social interactions. It’s a reliable source of dopamine hits. The warm glow of the screen mimics the campfire our ancestors might have gathered around.
Which brings us to dogs. The ultimate meaning-maker.
Meaning requires significance, purpose, and coherence. Three things dogs provide in spades.
Make no mistake, there’s nothing “easy” about dogs. But that’s the essence of their magic.
Dog’s require patience, responsibility, and dedication. They depend on you for everything. They force us into awkward social interactions with our neighbors, they make us consider a perspective other than our own, they give us an unquestionably important, yet manageable purpose.
And that purpose, brings longer-lasting and more significant happiness than comfort ever could.