In the wake of the controversial study released by Facebook that detailed how the social network manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users, one organization suggests that users try their own experiment—quit the site for 99 days.
Called “99 Days Of Freedom,” the project from Netherlands-based advertising agency Just asks people to drop Facebook for 99 days and document how this abstinence affects their daily lives. Participants will complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66, and 99-day marks, and the project will post results to its website after review.
“It can become an addiction and you often close your Facebook tab with the idea, why did I even go here?” said Merijn Straathof, Just Art Director and creator of 99 Days Of Freedom, in an email to ReadWrite. “So for us the real question was simple: Aren’t we all much happier without Facebook?”
Facebook’s own experiment—conducted for one week in 2012 and published in a scientific journal at the end of June—documented how the company manipulated the number of positive or negative posts users received in their news feeds. The purpose was to test whether seeing mostly negative or positive posts would change the the tenor of the test subject’s own posts. The experiment caused outrage among both the academic community and users themselves who felt like they’d become guinea pigs in a Facebook psych experiment.
Facebook’s terms of service says that people might be used for “research” purposes, so the only way you can opt out of becoming a test subject is to quit the service entirely. But there’s no reason you can’t run your own experiment on Facebook to see if becoming less active on the social network really does make you happier.
Letting Go Is Hard
Take it from someone who has tried and failed to quit Facebook before: It’s hard.
According to the company, users spend more than 20 billion minutes per day on Facebook, and the social network has become part of many people’s daily digital routine.
The creators of 99 Days of Freedom say that the time people will get back giving up Facebook will allow them to do more meaningful things with their time—like spending it with friends and family offline.
“We want to make sure that it’s not our goal for users to quit Facebook entirely. It’s purely an experiment to see what life is like without it,” Straathof said. “Hopefully the result will be that people will think twice about staring at their screens when they can do things in real life instead.”
See Also: Why I Just Can’t Quit Facebook
Part of the reason I couldn’t quit was because Facebook provided a way to connect with friends in my former community and other parts of the world I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Even though my news feed was overrun with noise, it was still a vital tool for communication among different friend groups. Eventually, instead of quitting altogether, I unfriended the people who were ruining the experience for me. Now, Facebook really is a place for friends, and I spend a lot less time scrolling through status updates.
To combat the feeling of loneliness that might come for those who decide to quit, the 99 Days of Freedom project provides a forum for participants to talk about their experiences anonymously. Participants can commiserate, as well as find out how abstaining from Facebook is affecting others.
Like with any other experiment there are risks—and this one might be a big failure. But it brings up an important question that Facebook didn’t ask outright during its own experiment: Does this really make you happy?
Lead image courtesy of 99 Days Of Freedom