Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Internet is Stupid

This is not an alternative fact. It is good, old-fashioned truth; like a brass door knocker. Let me clarify… the Internet is not only stupid, it is woefully inadequate and potentially dangerous.

During a class discussion of happiness in which we were debating whether happiness was real or a social construct cleverly designed to dupe us into doing many, many silly things, we decided to define the word “happy.” Possessing the soul of an 90 year-old, pedantic logophile (as well as a compact, Oxford English Dictionary), I thought it would be an opportune time to illustrate said stupidity of the Internet. So, we Googled the word “happy”

Of course this took .75 seconds and yielded over a hundred million results. We looked at the definitions. To be fair there were three (not shown: inclined to use a specific thing excessively or at random).  

To contrast this exercise, I lugged out my compact Oxford English Dictionary. Don’t let the word “compact” fool you. The book weighs 15 pounds. No joke. The students call it “Big Papi,” which I’m sure I’ll need to look up in the Urban Dictionary before I continue to use that handle. Anyway, looking the word up took roughly seven minutes and five seconds because I had to use the magnifying eyepiece to first find the word and then to read the text.

Here’s what we discovered:

As defined by The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition


1.  Coming or happening by chance; fortuitous; chance.  Obs. Rare.

2.  a.  Having good ‘hap’ or fortune; lucky, fortunate; favored by lot, position, or other
external circumstances.
b.  Blessed, beatified.  Obs.  Of happy memory, a phrase conventionally applied to the deceased.
    c.  happy land, a prosperous, favorable, etc. land; spec., heaven.

3.  Characterized by or involving good fortune; fortunate, lucky; prosperous;
    favorable, propitious.

4.  a.  Having a feeling of great pleasure or content of mind, arising from satisfaction
with one’s circumstances or condition; also in weakened sense: Glad, pleased.
b.  Freq. with neg. as not (at all), not entirely, not quite happy about (or with), usually indicating substantial dissatisfaction.  
c.  happy family: (a) a conventional description of a harmonious family (b) (see Family sb. 2b); (c) Austral., a popular name of the grey-crowned babbler (Struthidea cinerea); also called happy jack.
d.  happy families: a game played with a pack of special cards, each card depicting on its face a member of the tradesman’s family of four; it is the aim of each player to make as many complete families as he can.

5.  a.  Successful in performing what the circumstances require; apt, dexterous; felicitous.
b.  Of actions, etc.: Characterized by fitness for the circumstances or occasion; appropriate, fitting, felicitous.  
c.  happy medium = golden mean
d.  exhibiting harmony or co-operation, esp. happy ship, a ship on which the crew work together harmoniously; also transf. of the conduct of any organization.
e.  Of drugs: in certain colloquial phrases with the sense ‘intended to produce or induce happiness,’ e.g. happy dust, cocaine; happy pill, a tranquilizer.

6.  a.  colloq. humorous.  Slightly drunk; ‘elevated.’
    b.  happy hour (orig. U.S.), a period of time(usu. In the early evening) during which
    drinks are served in a bar, etc., at reduced prices, or when free hors-d’oeuvres are    

7.  Comb. As happy-hearted, -making, -natured, -seeming, -tempered.
b.  Used in certain hyperbolic phrases, e.g. (as) happy as the day is long.  Also, with reference to the happy endings of fairy tales, novels, etc., happy (also happily) ever after (wards).

So the primary Google definition of the word sits roughly 4th on the list of usage according to the OED, and there are more than twice as many definitions, which, we noted, deal mostly with chance, cocaine, and booze. This did very little to soften our cynicism of the concept. SATISFACTION, however, we discovered, was the key word for us to adequately define “happiness,” which the Google definition neglects entirely. Why satisfaction? Satisfaction is deeper than pleasure and connotes that the recipient of said happiness actually needed to work a bit… pursue that happiness. Happiness is not “instant,” despite what the Internet teaches and tells us. I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to connote happiness with satisfaction, not pleasure; to have the discipline to engage in activities in which there is a delay in gratification. The distinction could come down to the difference between becoming another opioid statistic, versus, say, reading a damned book.... or learning how to love and let love in. One is a gateway to instant pleasure, the others are challenging paths toward satisfaction and meaningful self-discovery.

May your days be filled with satisfaction, friends.

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