Freedom in 2020: A Year Online

Freedom in 2020: A Year Online

What we learned about our digital habits from a year lived almost entirely on-screen

When you think of 2020 – a year of quarantine, confinement, and a whole lot of screen time – “freedom” is probably the last word that comes to mind. Indeed it was a year so unprecedented that the Oxford English Dictionary expanded its Word Of The Year to encompass several words:

“It’s both unprecedented and a little ironic – in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other.”

  Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries

Meanwhile, exhausting, lost, and chaotic were the top 3 words chosen by readers of The Washington Post to describe last year, so you’d be forgiven for not immediately thinking of freedom.

Yet 2020 was also the year when we needed it most. Freedom from distraction while we worked from home. Freedom from an infinite feed of bad news. Freedom from anxiety and worry. So you may not be so surprised after all to learn that 2020 was our biggest year so far! Big in terms of numbers, yes – we have more users than ever before – but also big in terms of grand ideas, a growing community, more tools and resources, and a greater awareness of the need for a healthier relationship with technology. Indeed freedom – like Joan Didion said of water – is most important to those who do not have it. So while you may have felt stifled, overwhelmed, and more than a little distracted, we felt honored to have been able to offer support in some small but significant ways. We look forward to doing all we can to keep you feeling healthier, happier, and more productive in 2021 and beyond!

Time and distraction

Time seemed to be both in abundance and in short supply last year. We gained extra hours that would normally be spent commuting, and spent more time at home than ever before. But we also had to juggle things like homeschooling and caring for relatives, while work-life boundaries became increasingly blurred. Maybe you found yourself pulled into online distractions to escape the doom and gloom, found yourself working into the early hours to make up for time lost on childcare, or you fell into the bad habit of late-night doomscrolling.

Whatever it was that kept you from being as productive as you would have liked, we were all in the same boat last year, as our end-of-year data report showed. An incredible total of 9,048,956 active sessions had been started in 2020 at the time of data collection in late December, and the sum of the duration of those sessions is 10,229 years, 5 months, 9 days, 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 4.67 seconds. That’s a whole lot of time won back from distraction!

With everything going on in the world last year, we weren’t at all surprised to learn that our busiest periods in terms of Freedom usage were at the beginning of the pandemic, and during the U.S. election. Undoubtedly, those significant events also made The Social Dilemma Netflix’ surprise hit of the year, and we were lucky enough to join the makers of the movie for a fascinating conversation as part of Film Fest 919.

And while social media and gaming apps appeared to be the biggest distractors, we also heard from a number of users that their kids kept them from finding focus. Having a number of parents on the team, we at Freedom empathize! Luckily we had a great chat with Nir Eyal who let us in on this handy little technique – The Concentration Crown:

What makes Freedom? You!

One of the things we love about the Freedom community is how forthcoming you are about what you want and need from us! Your feedback is so important to us as it allows us to deliver a product that really helps people in their everyday lives. This year we ramped up our free resources to help you work from home fearlessly, released new Focus Sounds and Focus Music to ease that Groundhog Day feeling, and launched a brand new extension – Focus. You can also look forward to the Freedom Matters podcast coming in the very near future! We also offered Freedom Grants to help support those working in medical research and public health services and we were delighted to be able to share the inspiring stories of a frontline nurse who writes to disconnect, and a junior doctor who found a happier balance with social media. A huge thank you to all the essential workers, medical professionals, and scientists for everything you do!

We compiled some fun facts about Freedom’s Year Online into an infographic, for an at-a-glance rundown of our – or rather your – greatest hits of 2020:

Freedom Matters

With so many writers, creatives, entrepreneurs, other successful people (Business Owners and Founders signed up more than any other profession in 2020!) amongst our ranks, we’re not surprised that our monthly Freedom Matters newsletter has a readership of over a million! In case you missed any of them, or were distracted (highly likely in 2020!), we rounded up your favorite blog post of each month:

Sign up for a Freedom account here to make sure you never miss our monthly newsletter.

Looking forward

We hope that 2021 proves to be a year memorable for all the right reasons, but whatever happens, we promise to help you make more time for what matters most. Freedom is now supported on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Kindle devices, and we offer 4 free chrome extensions. You’ll find our audio content on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple Podcasts – don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite platform so you don’t miss the Freedom Matters podcast launch!

As always, we cherish your feedback, suggestions, and feature requests – we couldn’t do it without you! So whatever the next 12 months bring, you can rest assured that we will keep on working to develop better ways of interacting with technology so you can become healthier, happier, and more productive.

The future’s green – the future’s Freedom! 💚

A note on our data policy

At Freedom, we are building ethical technology that helps you focus on what matters most, which is why we are fiercely passionate about protecting your privacy. The data presented in this post is intended for informational purposes using only the information given by Freedom users in order to provide the service requested, and users remain entirely anonymous. We will never share, rent or sell your data with third parties.

For further details, please see our full Privacy Policy.