Nicola Adam column

Actor and comedian Robin Williams.
Actor and comedian Robin Williams.

As proved by the tragic loss of the late great actor Robin Williams, happiness is an ephemeral thing – just because you give it doesn’t mean you have it all the time.

It seems terribly sad that those who make us laugh the most, often seem by default to be those most in touch with the emotions which can also make them the saddest.

Emotional intelligence, perhaps, walks side by side with vulnerability.

It is a sign of the age we live in that no sooner was his death reported, Robin’s last tweet was circulated – a touching birthday message to his grown-up daughter Zelda.

But this is becoming the norm.

We are judged by not how we were, how we are, but what we have said, how we have spun ourselves on social media, our public face.

Not the day to day reality, which is often very different and very private – less glossy.

Robin’s public face was through his films and interviews, ours usually through how we present ourselves on Facebook, our Twitter bio, photographs we share, the key landmarks of our lives.

We can alter perception and edit our existence at the touch of a button.

Others see our outwardly happy families, our made-up faces, the bittersweet moments, share joys, read our inspirational bon motes and discuss that which we find interesting and amusing. The flipside is the haters, venom directed by strangers, encouraging us to be outwardly upbeat.

Rarely do we reveal any sadness of our real lives, the toughest battles, the humiliations and letdowns.

Without realising it we seek constant approbation in our lives and popularity, measuring ourselves through ‘likes, ‘retweets’ and ‘selfies’ that, ironically, share little of our real selves.

As we do not really know all our Facebook friends or Twitter followers, Robin’s fans did not really know him.

Not all his battles were private, but the extent of those will now only ever be known through the manner of his passing and in the grief of his family, while on screen he carries on joking and making us laugh. Forever a screen star.

But of course, his life was not wasted and neither will ours be. We may have shared our best faces, our happiest times, our proudest moments, but through doing so have also created smiles as we star in our own lives on screen.

By seeking happiness through our phones, tablets, PCs and other people’s lives, we may actually find it. Stranger things have happened.

But you can only have light if you have darkness – something the Robins of this world know well. As Hook he delivered a line that summed up his public personality and the memory he will be cherished for: ‘Think a happy thought. And you’ll fly like me.’

But not everyone can fly and, however glossy our Facebook profile, we all fall sometimes.