For most of human historical past, laughter and comedy have been scarce sources in bleak occasions. The extra the higher! But that’s not remotely true anymore. I’ve 1000’s of hours of comedy ready for me on streaming video, primarily free, that I’ll in all probability by no means watch. Hundreds of jokes are scrolling by means of my Twitter feed each hour. This loopy overabundance, I’m now satisfied, has not been a web good for me.
First, there’s the issue that psychologists name the “hedonic treadmill.” More and extra of a pleasurable factor, it seems, doesn’t truly make us happier. It simply makes us take pleasure in every new stimulus rather less. I don’t “lol” at humorous texts and tweets anymore, for probably the most half, not even after I sort “lol” in reply. My highest amusement stage now’s nodding sagely and saying “That’s funny” in a really severe voice.
And the delicate buzz of seeing followers like, retweet and riff on a very good joke is rarely well worth the soul-destroying gloom of watching Twitter activate you. When I’m simply getting yelled at by lone crusaders with a pet peeve, or folks from throughout the political aisle outraged (or no less than “outraged”) a few President Trump joke, that’s disagreeable sufficient. But what’s actually unhealthy is to get pilloried and have it coming, when a joke that made sense in my head turned out to be incomprehensible and terrible on the display. To attempt to add a joke to a world already too filled with jokes, and to do it so ineptly that somebody was harm or insulted — what might be worse than that?
There’s no approach to escape our new comedy-first tradition; there doesn’t even appear to be another anymore. When comedian irony is synonymous with hipness, every other sensibility, whether or not it’s non secular solemnity or emo-style earnestness, simply appears stodgy and out of contact by comparability. Perhaps that’s the worst a part of my Twitter joke behavior: it’s altering who I’m in actual life. My snarky repartee is smoother than ever, however in conditions when a extra heartfelt connection is required, I discover that I’m somewhat out of my ingredient. Those aren’t emotional muscle tissue that we train as a lot anymore.
Part of me needs to choose out of the social media dopamine loop altogether. But my hedonic treadmill is turned up so excessive that it’s arduous to make the leap. Real life appears drab now, in comparison with the high-speed barrage of ironic banter on-line. It’s the dream of my sitcom-watching childhood come true: nothing however punch traces so far as the attention can see.
Ken Jennings is the writer, most just lately, of “Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture.”