Free time is only useful when your friends have free time

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:


Our study, which drew on data from more than 500,000 respondents to the Gallup Daily Poll, examined the day-to-day fluctuations and patterns in people’s emotions, week after week. Two facts about emotional well-being emerged — one that was intuitive, the other surprising.

The intuitive finding was that people’s feelings of well-being closely tracked the workweek. As measured by things such as anxiety, stress, laughter and enjoyment, our well-being is lowest Monday through Thursday. The workweek is a slog. Well-being edges up on Friday, and really peaks on Saturday and Sunday. We are, in a real sense, living for the weekend.

The surprising finding was that this is also true of unemployed people. We found that the jobless showed almost exactly the same day-to-day pattern in emotional well-being as working people did. Their positive emotions soared on the weekend, and dropped back down again on Monday.

It seems obvious why working people cherish the weekend: It’s a respite from work. But why is the weekend also so important to the unemployed?

The key to answering this question is to recognize that not all time is equal. Time is, in many ways, what sociologists call a “network good.”

Network goods are things that derive their value from being widely shared. Take your computer: Its value depends in large measure on how many other people also have a computer. This is because you use your computer as, among other things, a communication technology: for Internet access, email, Facebook and file sharing. When everyone you know has a computer, the technology is indispensable. But if you were the only person with a computer, its value would be limited.