I USE MY work as an online media professional to justify my constant presence on Facebook. It’s partially true; I do need to be on social media interacting with people, sharing content.
But in all honesty, I spend way too much time on Facebook. There’s a good chance you do too. Maybe this’ll convince you (and me) to get outside more.
1. Nature makes you happy.
Earlier this year the David Suzuki Foundation conducted a survey of 10,000 Canadians who were challenged to spend 30 minutes per day in nature for 30 consecutive days. 1 On average, the participants nearly doubled the time they spent outdoors and reduced their screen time by almost 5 hours per week. The survey showed a significant increase in the reported well-being of those surveyed: more energy and vitality, and decreased stress, negativity, and sleep disturbances.
You don’t even have to live out in the country to get this. Over an 18-year period, the European Centre for Environment and Human Health did research on more than 10,000 urban residents. They found a direct correlation between subjects’ reported well-being and how close they lived to a green space. How much happiness did living near a green space bring? About a “third of the amount that being married does.” 2
2. Facebook is depressing.
Just last month, the Public Library of Science figured out what, I think, many of us Facebook users already inherently suspect: “The more someone uses Facebook, the less satisfied he is with life.” 3
I’m not surprised. Facebook allows you to filter your life and present yourself in the best possible light. If I didn’t think critically about it, I’d just assume — based on all my friends’ status updates — that everyone is perpetually having the time of their lives, and there’s something wrong with me because I’m not.
3. Do better in school.
It’s advisable for children to get 90 minutes of physical activity per day. Obviously, gym class isn’t enough. The kids have to get out there on their own time too; this means less computer and TV time, and more time in nature. Besides the obvious physiological benefits of active play, it’s also been shown that youngsters who are more active in their daily lives perform better in school. 4
4. Help fight the obesity epidemic.
Almost one-third of American children are obese. But let’s not make this just about the kids. I’ve seen enough overweight adults in my travels to come to the conclusion that we’re simply not getting enough exercise. And if you’re like me and despise going to the gym, there’s nothing better than going for a hike in the forest, or tossing a frisbee around in the park, or swimming in a lake.
5. Feel less guilty (and hurt).
One of the newer features of Facebook I hate is how people can see that you’ve “seen” something. Like if someone invites me somewhere and I read the message, Facebook will indicate to them that I’ve seen it. So now I gotta make up some excuse to not go, which makes me feel bad. The best excuse is “Oh, I didn’t see that.” And if I were off Facebook and outside, it’d be the truth.
On the flip-side, I don’t like being shown that other people have seen my messages. It builds up my expectation, then when they don’t respond it feels hurtful: “They’ve seen it, why aren’t they responding?” If I don’t see that because I’m not on Facebook, all the better.
6. Remember your roots.
We aren’t separate from nature; we are part of it. And we used to be more in tune with it. Polynesians traditionally navigated thousands of miles of open ocean using only their senses and what nature offered them: the motion of the stars, the wildlife around them, the size and speed of waves. We hear stories of animals that escaped harm from the disastrous effects of a tsunami by running to higher ground minutes before the wave came to shore. 5
Living in artificial cities, in environments which defy nature rather than existing in harmony with it, breeds these kinds of instincts and knowledge out of us.
7. Help save the environment.
Being as removed from nature as the average person is these days, it can be hard to grasp the effects that our “normal” daily activities have on our environment. Disconnecting from the internet and heading out into nature — apart from the energy savings that go along with that — helps bring the reality into better perspective.
Go out into the mountains for a hike and you’re likely to see scarred mountainsides recovering from clear-cuts. Maybe you’ll come across an open-pit mine or a lake so polluted that swimming is prohibited. These are vital and tangible reminders for us to check our environmental footprints.
8. Have something to brag about on Facebook.
OK, I get it. I know Facebook is a big part of our social lives. I’m not asking you to shut down your accounts and live in the bush. We’ll still go on Facebook and we’ll still get depressed by the illusion of our friends’ “perfect” lives.
But at least — if we’re heading out into the world and discovering amazing natural things like the Yosemite Valley, the salt flats of Bolivia, and the karsts of Krabi in Thailand — we’ll have photos to share and interesting things to post about, not just what dinner was.
9. Feel a sense of accomplishment.
There’s not a whole lot to feel gratified about by stalking around on Facebook and posting witty status updates. True, Likes and comments on my clever posts do feel good, but it’s nothing compared to summiting a mountain or kayaking around a lake.
10. Give yourself a challenge.
Another way to feel gratified is to rise to a challenge. I’ve recently made a commitment to dedicate one day per week to being offline. God took a day off, why shouldn’t we? If climbing mountains isn’t your thing, a sense of accomplishment can still be had by intentionally setting a goal for yourself and meeting it. Shutting the computer off for a day and going for a walk in the park can’t be as hard as climbing a peak, can it?