Saturday, February 1, 2014

28 Days. (The Happiness Experiment, Part 2)

The Happiness Experiment, Carmel, California

What would you give to have one month in 2014 to do whatever you wanted?

What would you do? What goals would you set? What would you accomplish?

          In December, Erin challenged me to take on what she phrased “The Happiness Experiment”. Essentially, the Happiness Experiment consisted of getting rid of social media and avoiding news sites—basically anything that consisted of endless webpage scrolling. This included Twitter, Facebook and the cycling and triathlon forums I frequented on an almost daily basis. I signed my life away with the contract she drew up and braced for what I thought was going to be the looooonnnnngggest month of my life. Before I knew it, however, the holiday break was over and here I am today, sitting in class like I never even left campus.
          So, what happened during that month of no social media?
          Lots.
          I read 6 good books.
          I vacationed in sunny Carmel, California for a week.
          I ran almost every single day (including an 11-miler in a Santa hat on Christmas Eve).
          I finished another blog post.
          I opened some presents…and ate way too much.
          Of course you could argue that I still would have done all of those things with social media thrown in the mix—you’re right. The difference, however, lies in the simple fact that I was able to focus entirely on the experiences I was having. I wasn’t able to excuse myself from reading my books by checking Twitter every half hour, and I was able to experience Carmel, California without the interruption of my supposed “friends” inviting me to play CandyCrush Saga on Facebook (seriously though, enough is enough). Furthermore, I was able to focus on the people around me. Real. Live. People. Family. Friends.
          As you read this, you’re probably thinking something to the effect of “Jake’s gone Amish on us.” You may also find it ironic that I’m linking this blog post to every social media outlet I can find. I genuinely believe there is value to be had in social media, but the battle I’m having in my mind is whether or not my existence in social media is worth more than the real-life experiences I could be having without it. The impact that “The Happiness Experiment” had on my life in the span of just one month was, to say the least, eye-opening.
          This is where my opening question ties in to all of this.

          What would you give to have one month in 2014 to do whatever you wanted?

          Because of the positive experience I had with the Happiness Experiment, I’m keeping the momentum rolling into 2014. I decided to modify certain aspects of the original contract a bit, but the majority of it is staying the same. Starting today (Feb. 2, 2014), I’m renewing my commitment to the contract for the next year. You can see a copy of the contract on the right, officially typed and everything.
The Happiness Experiment          As you look it over, feel free to laugh at the “read a science paper” suggestion (it’s for my future haha) or the “sign and date” at the bottom of the page (I told you it was official!).
          One thing I noticed during my month-long experiment was that I had the tendency to find loopholes in the system—instead of checking for Facebook updates, I would start checking my email every half hour. That’s why I included the paragraph at the end to remind me that simply replacing old habits with new ones that are equally unproductive does no good—you need to find worthy goals to fill in the extra time.
          I totally admit it’s over the top, but while you’re still laughing, let me explain this whole “month of free time” concept and how it ties in to the experiment. I estimated that I spend an average of two hours a day browsing news sites, scrolling through status updates and checking trending topics on Twitter. I also feel that this estimate is not too far off from the average of most of my peers.
          Now for some math:

          Old me:
          2 hrs/day    x    365 days    =    730 hrs spent “logged in” each year.


          New me:
          5 min/day on news sites    +    2 min/day on Instagram    =    7 min/day
          (7 min/day    x    7 days/week) + 5 min/week on Facebook    =    54 min/week
          54 min/week    x    52 weeks/year    =    2,808 min/year    =    46.8 hrs/year
        730 hrs/year    -    46.8 hrs/year    =    683.2 hrs SAVED

          683.2 hrs    =    28.47 days

          There it is.

          A month.

          In the next year, I’ll be saving 28.47 days worth of time by not mindlessly scrolling through web page after web page. What’s more is the fact that those 28.47 days are really 28.47 24-hour periods of time. Factoring in sleep, those 683.2 hours extend out much longer than just a month.
          Think about it though. That 2 hrs/day is the equivalent of living your normal life for 11 months, and then saying “adiĆ³s” to the real world by staring at a computer screen for the entire month of December—no sleep, no work, no school, just you and a bunch of tweets and posts (most of which you don’t even care about anyway).

          What would you give to have one month in 2014 to do whatever you wanted?

          Erin originally named this project “The Happiness Experiment,” because at the time she designed it I had been feeling unproductive, unsatisfied and underwhelmed with the progress I was making in life. You could say it was my conscience telling me there were higher peaks that needed climbing, but I was too focused on the screen of my phone to even notice!
          If you decide you want to try something similar, I seriously want to hear about it. I promise Zuckerberg won’t be offended. Tell me what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and keep me updated along the way. Shoot me an email or send me a message on Facebook. If you choose the latter, don’t expect a response until Monday. :)

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