Discovery & the Pursuit of Happiness
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
– Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451
The Sidewalk app provides guided walk experiences created by anyone with stories to tell about places they know and love. We created Sidewalk to help you create and discover local experiences wherever you are, whether at home, at the ends of the earth or somewhere in between. New experiences are worth pursuing, if for no other reason, they are linked to happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is a subject that academics increasingly seek to unlock, quantify and dissect. The topic became an official field of scientific research in 1998, when the American Psychological Association christened it, “Positive Psychology.” One of Harvard University’s most popular courses of the past decade is PSY 1504 – Positive Psychology. Even geneticists are getting involved — in 2016, a paper published in the journal, Nature Genetics linked a series of genes to happiness.
One of the early findings from this research is that it is experiences - not objects - that brings us more happiness. When we purchase material things, we are excited at first, but the excitement wears off as we “adapt” to owning them. According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who studies the relationship between money and happiness, we are happier if we spend our money and time collecting experiences.
“You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things,” according to Gilovich, “but… your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
There are a few reasons why experiences are so valuable:
Even bad experiences make for good stories and opportunities for personal development
We have more similarities with each other in common experiences than in commonly-owned objects
The ability to compare our status with someone else’s (a known detractor of happiness) is easier to do with objects than with experiences
So how to create more opportunities for experiences? Next time you ask yourself, “What should I do this weekend?,” choose to discover a new part of the city or explore a new perspective in a familiar neighborhood. The Sidewalk app tells the stories of local murals, mom-and-pop bakeries, and local watering holes. It answers the questions, "Why is this significant?," "What should I order?," and “Why should I care?” You can also help others experience the best of your town by creating your own Sidewalk walking tour. Share it with others!
We built Sidewalk because we wanted a different way to access and experience the world around us - the story-worthy sites, the distinctive foods, the culturally significant. You already have the insights, now you have the tool to unlock new perspectives for others.
The idea of a more discoverable, contextual and cooperative world puts a smile on our faces. We think Sidewalk will do the same for you too.