The Reason Americans Are Unhappiest They Have Been in 50 Years

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Americans aren’t happy. According to a study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, just 14% of American adults say they are very happy, the lowest in 50 years. This number is down from 31% just two years ago. It has never been lower than 29%, based on nearly a half-century of research.

Sure, the number of Americans that claim to be happy was going to be down when the unemployment rate skyrocketed and uncertainty hit an all-time high, due to the pandemic. But this swing is staggering and is mistakenly being dismissed as just a result of coronavirus. In reality, COVID-19 only exacerbated the key problems America was already facing.

The main reason we, as a country, are so unhappy right now is fear. The news benefits from scaring us. The more terrified Americans are, the more they watch, read, and listen. Social media also thrives on fear. The moderate user waiting for the facts to come in is lost in the shuffle. The most extreme, pessimistic tweets go viral. The past few months highlighted this as millions of Americans spent their days constantly checking for the latest test results and death counts.

Even more problematic, Americans are afraid to disagree with the accepted stance of the mainstream media. Again, coronavirus didn’t create this problem, it’s been this way for the past five years. COVID-19 just took it up several notches.

As I’ve repeatedly said, if you disagree on the most subjective issues you risk cancellation, your reputation, and even your job. You weren’t allowed to say online, on TV, or on the radio that Drew Brees had a right to feel how he did. That perspective was wrong, offensive, and gross. It wasn’t allowed, the influencers made clear. Similarly, anyone who had the slightest glimpse of hope that the world would survive the pandemic was forced to stay quiet.

If you pointed out positive trends, you were demonized. If you resumed your life and went back to work, you were called selfish. If you cited data that contradicted the narrative, you were a liar and shameful. That data didn’t matter, they’d tell you. When you pointed out the hypocrisy in that, you were a bigot, and an Alex Jones wannabe. So, people sat back out of fear.

None of this is novel. It happened in 2016 when Americans were frightened to speak out against the national anthem protests and say they were going to vote for Donald Trump. Instead, they kept quiet, stopped watching the NFL, and voted.

Look at what happened this week when Mike Gundy, head football coach at Oklahoma State, wore an OAN shirt. The few who were brave enough to say it was just a shirt and that he’s allowed to wear what he wants while fishing were deemed “insensitive” and “right-wing conspiracy theorists.” Per usual, these thoughts didn’t represent the overwhelming majority of the country. Just the vocal leaders of cancel culture, who have been given power that cannot be questioned.

The past few months were a tipping point that left few Americans happy. You can’t be happy if you are silenced and living in fear. And you certainly can’t be happy if your main objective each morning is to make sure others aren’t happy with their lives. Which is what many, sadly, live for today. These despicable, unsatisfied trolls will now focus on the remaining 14%, who have ignored the push for universal anger. They haven’t forgotten the good.

As disastrous as 2020 has been, life isn’t all that bad here in the United States. For all this country’s flaws, it remains filled with positives we take for granted. Options that make us who we are. Freedom to be who we want to be. I know, none of that matters anymore, for some reason never explained.

There’s isn’t room for happiness in America’s negative, backward way of thinking. Americans have let the bad drown out the good; most are incapable of fighting it off.

Social media addicted us to negativity. You may love the outfit you are wearing, you go to show it off, and you only get a few likes. Now, you think it’s ugly and you are afraid to be seen in public wearing it. You post an image of the fun day with your family, and some comment below says you should have stayed quarantined. You now feel like a bad parent because one miserable, bored hack is jealous. You go from a beautiful day to feeling guilty and ashamed. Our insecurities are at an all-time high because we let people who don’t know us dictate our feelings.

How can Americans be happy having this mindset?

We are a country divided, perhaps 50-50. Not in a way where we can come together in the middle — in a way we despise one another and refuse to respect an opposing point of view. Disagreement is criminalized. Conversation has been replaced by canceling. Loathing has overtaken understanding. Those left undecided on a major topic, are looked at as incompetent and blind. And the worst part, there’s nowhere to run.

Our entertainment has been politicized to the highest degree. Sports talk TV resembles cable news, players sound like politicians, musicians are telling you what to think, streaming services are removing classics, and Hollywood has embraced one side of the political spectrum. If the topics we hate the most are now so clearly mixed in with the topics we love, the escape is gone. And that was the intention.

I feel confident our current problems and outrage will fade. But that won’t make Americans happier. It will be on to the next. Our lifestyles have changed, and not for the better.

We listen to strangers. We worship inauthentic celebrity lives. The few people who know how to make us happy are, most likely, not the ones we’ve been listening to.

We are so far apart as a country, yet the data says we are coming together in misery.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics..

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.

One Comment

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  1. Really well written. This mindset has been around for years, technology has allowed it to advance at an astonishing pace. In countries all over the world, for centuries, people who live in metropolitan areas have and do tend to look down their noses at rural folks. This is not opinion, it’s fact, and I’m putting it kindly. Earlier this year, a professor at Berkeley aggressively suggested rural America should not have the same access to healthcare as those in metropolitan areas. It was national news? Why?

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