High-flow teens and mall teens

In the 1980s, Prof Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied 250 teenagers who were given pagers that beeped at various times. They noted down what they were doing and how they were feeling.

One group – “low-flow teens” spent more time watching TV and hanging out in the mall. The other group – “high-flow teens” – spent their time engaged in activities like sports or on their homework.

The study followed these teens to find that the “high-flow” teens reported more longer term happiness, deeper social ties, and education/career success. But, it is more interesting to look at how they were feeling in the moment.

During the course of the study, these high-flow teens did better in every measure of psychological well being (happiness, self esteem, and engagement) except for ONE.

They thought the mall kids were having more fun.