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Give Up Facebook for 99 Days, New Experiment Dares You

Rob Walker
Tech Columnist
Yahoo Tech

Last week, it was revealed that Facebook enabled a social experiment on its own members, manipulating the posts that appeared based on whether they were positive or negative. 

Among the many troubled by this news, the USA Today first reported, were the fine people of Just, a “creative agency” in the Netherlands. Instead of simply freaking out, Just decided to launch a counter-experiment. Here’s what it boils down to: Can you go 99 days without using Facebook?

And if so, how might that affect your “personal notions of happiness”?

The project is called 99 Days of Freedom, and it’s pretty straightforward.

First, you just decide, you know, not to use Facebook for 99 days. Then you download a specific avatar to replace your profile picture, in effect announcing your participation. (It’s not clear if the point there is to signal to your Facebook friends that you’re not seeing their updates, or to promote this project, or both.)

The next step involves creating a “personal countdown,” and, if you wish, opting in to a “happiness survey.” This will involve “periodic surveys,” presumably gauging your un-Facebooked mood. Just notes that it hopes “such interaction will serve as a support group of sorts.” Sure. As long as you’re going to disconnect, you want to be part of a community of the disconnected, right?

The last step, of course, is not using Facebook, for the better part of three months. This, the creators say, “saves the average user 1683 minutes. That’s well over 28 hours!” That will give you plenty of spare time to answer the periodic surveys.

The underlying idea here — unplugging in general, and undermining Facebooking in particular — has a variety of precedents. We’ve covered past stunts like Friend Fracker (designed to randomly delete Facebook friends) and Facebook Roulette (which proposed a chance-driven game that might delete your account). There’s even a “National Day of Unplugging” (which amusingly involves uploading a photo of your unplugged self to the Web).

Still, it will be interesting to see what emerges from this guerrilla experiment — although one wonders if the data will be self-selecting. It looks like just over 1,000 people are playing along so far. Surely there are at least that many people, and probably many more, who are dying for an excuse to take a break from Facebook.

If that includes you: Now you have one, and it’s all in the name of research.

The most interesting data point, obviously, will be how people feel when Day 99 arrives. Will they be relieved to get back to Facebookland? Or will they realize there’s no compelling reason to return?

Write to me at rwalkeryn@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter, @notrobwalker. RSS lover? Paste this URL into your reader of choice: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/author/rob-walker/rss.