Turn Off Facebook For 99 Days
July 14, 2014

Turn Off Facebook For 99 Days

Recently, I heard the news a Dutch non-profit had launched a campaign called “99 Days of Freedom,” which encouraged people to turn off Facebook as a way to study how it affects one’s happiness.

Truth be told, Facebook could shut down tomorrow and I’d likely hardly notice – I’d notice as a business reporter and probably would get sick of the “news” of the social network pulling the plug. As a Facebook user, I wouldn’t notice because I don’t really use Facebook. Nor do I use most social media. It just never clicked with me and, hence, I don’t click away with it.

The study is of course in response to Facebook’s own study on user happiness. So, for this reason, I say kudos to the 99 Days of Freedom study.

However, it had me thinking about other efforts to get unplugged. One that has always been a thorn in my side is the seemingly good intentions behind the “Screen Free Week,” which is presented by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Each year, this group encourages people, especially children, to turn off the TV and do something else. Now it isn’t just TV, but video and mobile games and other screens.

There are other groups that ask people to unplug from the Internet for a weekend or go without using their mobile phone for a week.

I’ve called out those efforts from these groups in the past because I personally believe to unplug completely is akin to returning to the dark ages. I say this as someone who spends hours each day in front of numerous screens, but still finds time to get in a bike ride, a run and enjoys reading actually words printed on paper – I also prefer hardcover books over paperbacks and don’t mind paying full retail for a new novel (gotta support my fellow writers).

So, I think about these efforts to “unplug” as having those good intentions, but it is done so in a very shortsighted way. Is it good to cut out the news, information and entertainment? The 99 Days of Freedom study noted that people who don’t use Facebook for that long would get back 28 hours!

No, they won’t. People will have those 28 hours, whether they use Facebook or not. Assuming it will be spent “wisely” is debatable.

Case in point, if it is a warm, sunny day, I truly “make” the time to get in that run or bike ride. If it is cold and rainy, I tend to spend more time in front of the computer. I wish I could say it was being productive, but chances are I was reading a forum, blog or something else. Was that time wasted? That is, again, up for debate.

The same can be said of TV. Rarely do I spend a summer Saturday noon in front of the TV. I tend to have chores to do outside, or else I’m getting in a longer bike ride. However, in February, I can attest that catching up on my shows or watching a movie I enjoy is how I might spend a Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps this is why at least the Screen Free Week is held in May, when the weather is getting nicer and people should be taking time to do something else.

Finally, there is another part to this. It might seem to us today that there is so little time, but the truth is that time is on our side. We don’t work the fields from sun up to sun down – unless we’re an independent farmer, of course. Moreover, we need some downtime, and it should be up to the individual on how to use that – whether it is “vegging out” in front of the TV, or reading comments by friends on Facebook. Sure, there are probably better uses of one’s time, but I’m sure some would consider my three hours spent on my bike on a sunny afternoon to be an utter waste of time as well.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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