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Blogger/author tells her audience: Come on, get happy

Sarah Beckham

Gretchen Rubin has heard the complaint that the Internet is no good for any of us, that it's causing us to just sit tap-tapping at our computers instead of making real connections with real people.

Rubin doesn't buy that. And her opinion is worth noting because she wrote the book on happiness. Well, at least a very popular book on happiness. Rubin's "The Happiness Project" is the No. 3 book on the New York Times' Hardcover Advice best-seller list. It's based on her blog of the same name. In both, Rubin writes about test-driving various strategies for happiness. She'll be reading from her book Friday afternoon at South by Southwest Interactive.

Visiting SXSW (it's her second year at the fest) makes her quite happy, and it's part of the reason she doesn't think the Internet is a joy-sapper. She relishes the opportunity the conference gives her to meet her virtual friends in person.

"I'm meeting people that I've never met before, but whom I feel like I know quite well," she says. "I love that."

Though she loves the energy and innovation at the tech conference, Rubin is also a student of history. In her work, she often explores what writers and thinkers have said about happiness through the ages. She says that when she started the Happiness Project she expected to focus more on emerging research about happiness. She's still fascinated by that science, but finds that the historical advice is more useful as a guide to living a happy life.

One of her blog's most popular posts is a list of ideas for cheering up that writer Sydney Smith sent to a depressed friend in 1820. Most of its suggestions still feel relevant: "Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue." "Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant."

In fact, keeping your surroundings pleasant and orderly is one of the first subjects she talks about in her book, and it's a subject that seems to particularly appeal to readers, she says.

"One of the things that's been most striking is how much people mention that to me," she says. "Physical, environmental order is huge for people."

With the success of her book, Rubin is experiencing something a lot of people dream of as a source of happiness. So how does it really feel?

"There's something in happiness called the arrival fallacy," she says. It's the belief that once you arrive at a certain destination that you'll be happy. "Usually, that arrival doesn't make you as happy as you think it will. But I have to say, getting my book out there and have it resonate with a lot of people is really not disappointing me. It's making me very happy. "

sbeckham@statesman.com; 445-3826

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Gretchen Rubin

When: 4:30 p.m. Friday

Where:Day Stage, Austin Convention Center