To no parent’s surprise, too much smartphone use makes teens unhappy.
So says a new study from San Diego State University, which pulled data from over one million 8th, 10th, and 12th-graders in the U.S. showing teens who spent more time on social media, gaming, texting and video-chatting on their phones were not as happy as those who played sports, went outside and interacted with real human beings.
But is it the screen time bringing them down or are sadder teens more likely to insulate themselves in a virtual world? Lead author of the study and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge believes it’s the phone that contributes to making them unhappy, not the other way around.
“Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” Twenge said.
The Song of the Sea, which is read as part of Parshat Beshalach, has been incorporated into our daily prayers in the Pesukei Dzimra section, often referred to as “Az Yashir”. In Siman 51, the Mishnah Berura quotes a passage from the Zohar: “that when Shirat Hayam is recited daily, it should be recited B’Simcha, with joy, and one should imagine as if s/he is actually crossing the Yam Suf at that moment.” For this Zohar we learn that we are supposed to be happy when we recite Shirat Hayam- BC THE JEWS WERE HAPPY WHEN THEY ORIGINALLY RECITED IT.
Research has shown that three of the most important qualities that happy people possess are: a feeling of control over one’s life, a sense of optimism, and faith/ religion- a sense of purpose bigger than ourselves. At the Splitting of the Yam Suf the Pasuk tells us:
“Vayar Yisrael et Mitzrayim met al sefat Hayam.”
For the first time in over two centuries, Bnai Yisrael were not slaves to a human master. At the moment that they saw the Egyptians drown, they realized that they were now in control of their own destiny. Though this may seem a little scary at first, being in control is a key ingredient in happiness.
“Vayaaminu BaShem ubemoshe Avdo”: In addition to feeling in control, the Jews had Emunah, faith. Faith in Hashem- a commitment to a higher purpose and to religion, Faith in themselves that with the help of G-d they could overcome any obstacles in their way.
Another contributor to happiness is being active: challenging ourselves to try new things and to do things that we love. Happiness is often a pleasant side effect to pursuing other activities: whether it is a job, a hobby or a volunteer opportunity. Inactivity and too much leisure can be impediments to happiness.
This seems to be Hashem’a advice to Bnei Yisrael before they even get to Yam Suf:
“Ma Tizak Elai- Daber El Bnei Ysirael Vayisau-“ G-d tells Moshe to convey to the people that inactivity will bring anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness. But getting up and going, doing something – in tandem with a feeling of control, optimism and faith in G-d- will lead to success.
A fifth and final factor in achieving happiness is relationships. The more quality relationships a person has, the more likely h/she is to be happy. At the Sea, Bnai Yisrael began to appreciate these relationships. They respond with Shira- song. Song only works when people are relating to one another: singing their parts, and playing their instruments together to create beautiful music.
When we put all of these factors together, we begin to map out the components of happiness: a sense of control, optimism, faith, initiative and relationships. At the Red Sea we learned the key ingredients to happiness- then and now.