Researchers at Stanford University have recently confirmed three interesting (but not startling) principles:
1. You may be miserable, but you are not alone. 2. Most people keep their negative feelings hidden. 3. People tend to be happier when they’re with others.
They found that people think their peers are happier than they really are, and this distortion of reality makes people lonely and dissatisfied with life. The study began when one of the researchers noticed that many of his friends became agitated after reading other people’s status updates on Facebook. They felt disappointed when their lives weren’t matching up to how well they thought their friends were doing.
The study indicated that it’s an illusion to think that other people’s lives are happier or better than your own. But now – for the really interesting part: This plays out when people seek entertainment, and does a lot to explain the reason people love a great tragedy. Human beings seek out tragic stories because it allows them to identify and empathize with other people they feel are just like them. In other words, stories that allow people to share in sorrow, actually tend to make people happier. So could this be why people of faith generally make lousy movies and TV programs? Christians especially feel like we should be celebrating the positive, so we tend to make movies about heroes, of sunny topics, or positive ideals.
Problem is – nobody wants to see them.
Perhaps the take away from this Stanford study is that we need to write more tragic stories. Maybe positive stories are actually the opposite of where people of faith need to focus. After all, the Bible doesn’t. It’s full of tragic stories of disappointment and loss. In fact, it could be said that a significant number of “heroes” in the Bible didn’t end well at all. Perhaps if we got off our high horse about telling “positive” stories, and got down in the rough and tumble world where most people live, we would actually connect, and tell stories people want to see.
What do you think?