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Communication and «The Good Life»


Edited By Hua Wang

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».
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Chapter Eight: The Secret to Happiness: Social Capital, Trait Self-Esteem, and Subjective Well-Being


← 126 | 127 → CHAPTER EIGHT

The Secret to Happiness

Social Capital, Trait Self-Esteem, and Subjective Well-Being



The history of humanity has shown that we work hard to pursue a good life and individual well-being. For example, personal wealth is closely related to well-being (Dowrick, 2004) and many technologies are developed to generate more wealth. Over the past ten years, web-based technologies such as social media gained increasing popularity. Most of these technologies are designed to help individuals improve their interpersonal relationships, which is an important component of well-being (Alkire, 2002).

It is still unclear, however, what impact technology is having on interpersonal relationships. If web-based communication technologies are improving the quality of our social networks and interpersonal communication, you would hypothesize that broad-level indicators of well-being should also be improving. Consider the suicide rate in North America as an example. This rate should be negatively related to well-being (McGillivray, 2007). However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,364 suicides were reported in the U.S. in 2010, equivalent to12.1 deaths per 100,000 people (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, n.d.), which suggest almost no change compared with the rate of 12.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 1981.

This chapter reports on a study aimed at better understanding individual well-being by explicating a set of specific factors...

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