Why an Anger Researcher Decided to Make a “Happy” Video
The importance of finding fun at work even when times are tough.
Posted Apr 23, 2014
Over the last month, my coworkers, students, and I filmed one of the MANY “Happy” videos inspired by Pharrell Williams’ song and video (watch it here).
We had a lot of fun and the responses from other coworkers and students have been really positive. This particular response from a friend stood out, though: “I love the fact that anger specialist Ryan Martin frames the happiness.”
I too noticed the juxtaposition of having the “anger guy,” as I’m often called, featured in a happy video. The truth is, though, that it isn’t a coincidence. My interest in anger and my awareness of anger problems really did feed into my desire to make this video.
First, by way of a backstory, here’s how the video came to be. A few months ago, a student told me that she saw me in the hallway most days but never said hi because I always seemed like I was in a bad mood. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I tend to be a little bit type A at work and had been accused of scowling in meetings or on my way to class in the past. The next morning, I thought it would be funny to post a Vine- a six-second-video of me walking extra-happily to class. I got a friend to tape me whistling, smiling, and pointing at people as I walked to class. We tweeted the video out from the department twitter account and people seemed to love it. For a few days, whenever I walked to class, students would see me, start whistling, laughing, pointing, etc. A few weeks later, we decided to do the “Happy” video as a follow-up to the “happy” vine we had posted and feature the rest of the psychology department and lots of students.
In other words, the video was borne out of the fact that the “anger guy” also had a reputation, at least amongst some, of being the “angry guy.” There’s a bigger connection than that, though. My campus has been host to a fair amount of frustration as of late. Like many public institutions, low pay, rising tuition, difficulty finding work after graduation, etc. have given my colleagues and students a lot to be angry about. I consistently find students who wonder if college is worth it or who have to make tough financial decisions that students just ten years ago didn’t regularly have to make. Those are real problems and work has been a little less fun for many of us because of them.
I can’t fix those problems, though. So, instead, I wanted to do something fun for all of us; something the brilliant and talented people I work with and teach would remember for a long time. I wanted to give them a present.
So we did this. We got the psychology faculty, our provost, our social media director, and about 60 students involved to make our version of the video that, admittedly, has been made over and over again by colleges and universities across the country.
To make it our own, we loaded it up with references to famous psychologists and psychology research. If you look closely, you’ll find Little Albert, Milgram, the invisible gorilla, a couple of famous happiness researchers, and a lot more. In fact there are twelve references to psychology research along with twelve Sigmund Freud action figures hidden throughout.
In the days since it went live, I’ve seen a lot of nice posts about it on Facebook from our current students and alumni.
This made my night. Cannot believe I get to learn from the amazing psych professors at UWGB.
This makes me love my psychology professors even more than I already do.
This is amazing!!!! My professors at UWGB were the best and obviously are still awesome!!
Why did they wait until after I left to do this?!?!?!?!?!?
Regarding this last one, I have two thoughts on this: First, I wish we had done this earlier. It would have been a lot of fun. Second, I’m not going to make that mistake again. We’ll do more stuff like this.
Finally, I’m not ignorant of the fact that some people think I have too much time on my hands and should just get back to work. I have two thoughts on this as well. First, if that were true, I wouldn’t be writing this at 4:00 am. Second, and much more importantly, my job is to create an inspiring, engaging, and fun environment that my students and colleagues are excited to be part of every day. Creating this video was an attempt at doing just that. Every minute I spent on this was work… and like any good project, it was also a lot fun.