It is not the fame effect that enriches us when we use social media, but something subtler: the pleasure of giving and receiving, discovering others as we discover ourselves. I like to call it generosity

* Mauro Porcini is Senior Vice President & Chief Design Officer, PepsiCo

I often wonder what the world of social media, in which I take an active part, is giving me as a designer and as a person. And the answer is: another path to happiness. A statement that calls for a bit of clarification.

If social media are like a camera pointed at our life, I’ve decided to use a wide-angle lens to capture and share all the aspects that go into the puzzle of my existence. I talk about design, innovation, art, love, creativity, the joy of living, optimism, respect, technique… My contents are aligned with the general sense I want to convey, and above all they are spontaneous, real, and constantly transparent. Because for me the social networks are not a platform of amplification of who I am and what I do, but a place of cultural enrichment: my own and that of others.

Using social media to consider others rather than ourselves

When I address my audience, my main aim is to share ideas and emotions in a generous way, without expecting anything in return. And this spontaneous action is almost naturally transformed into inspiration, dialogue, exchange, information, education, co-creation, innovation. This personal and direct enrichment is then augmented by another, which is often undervalued: reflected enrichment. The ongoing search for an interesting theme to photograph and share forces me to observe reality with greater attention, curiosity and passion. These are main drivers of any process of innovation, the tools that allow great dreamers to identify opportunities, to generate ideas and develop solutions, where most people see only everyday routine.

Curating a social media account is like a process of personal growth

The social media become lenses that enlarge my ability to be innovative, boosting that precious ability to observe the world with innocent, surprised eyes, full of wonder, with a child-like mentality. In the process of preparation of a post, you learn and grow. Thinking after the fact about an experience, to understand what kind of message you can glean from it, reflecting on how to express it to make it accessible to the entire world, is a process of inner growth, of new awareness, in which unexpressed truths and ideas emerge and come to light.

The act of prototyping ideas through words and images is a precious maieutic process, an action of thought, a deep reflection that enhances us and shapes us. And a final form of enrichment, absolutely indirect, has to do with the emotional and rational awareness that your sharing will bring value to someone else, informing, impressing, inspiring. And that is quite a gift, if we know how to appreciate it.

Social media and happiness

What does all this have to do with happiness? A lot. The human sciences indicate three dimensions on which we should all invest time, energy and resources in our inner voyage in search of happiness. The first is personal realization, manifested through the definition of our own identity with respect to others, often through our job or our work, but not only on that basis. Are you happy with what you do, and does it represent you in a meaningful way? If you are not, and if it does not, the time has come to change.

The second dimension has to do with connection with others, especially family, friends, loved ones. This is a two-way street in which happiness comes from giving love, respect, passion, inspiration, as well as the intense pleasure of receiving.

The third dimension transcends us, in search of a cause that is bigger than we are, something greater than personal interest, and it is entirely based on the giving of ourselves, without expecting anything in return, creating value for a specific community or for the entire society. The range is vast, spreading from activities of solidarity to sharing of know-how, missions of a religious character or political impact, always done with the heart, with abnegation. So it is true: if we want it, social platforms can represent a very powerful channel available to us to amplify our pathway to happiness through these three phases.

Cover photo: Dunne & Raby, Robot 4: Needy One, from Technological Dream Series: No. 1, Robots, 2007. © 2016 Dunne & Raby. Photograph: Per Tingleff. Da ‘Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine’, at the Vitra Design Museum, from 2 febbraio to 14 May 2017.