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.
Free time is also a network good. The weekend derives much of its importance from the fact that so many people are off work together.