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No secret experiment here: ‘99 Days of Freedom’ asks users to quit Facebook, see how they feel

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The organized backlash to Facebook’s controversial psychological experiment to study and tinker with users’ emotions is here. An initiative dubbed “99 Days of Freedom” is calling Facebook users to quit the social network for 99 days to see how life without Facebook affects their happiness.

The nonprofit initiative (sparked by Just, a creative agency based in the Netherlands) is a response to Facebook’s mood experiment. Participants are asked to follow a three-step process: 1) change their profile photo with one that simply says “99 Days of Freedom”; 2) create and share a link to a personal countdown; and 3) don’t use Facebook for 99 days.

The initiative also sends participants anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33-, 66- and 99-day checkpoints. Results of these surveys will be shared on the 99 Days of Freedom website. A message board will also be set up to give users a place to share their personal stories about their break from Facebook.

While this might sound like a “raise your pitchforks” kind of movement, it actually started out as an office joke, according to Merijn Straathof, art director at Just. “As we discussed it internally, we noted an interesting tendency: To a person, everyone had at least a ‘complicated’ relationship with Facebook,” he said. “Whether it was being tagged in unflattering photos, getting into arguments with other users or simply regretting time lost through excessive use, there was a surprising degree of negative sentiment.”

After someone wondered aloud how users would feel when they don’t use Facebook, the idea for 99 Days of Freedom was born.

The initiative’s press release notes that based on Facebook’s stats, quitting the social network for about three months would free up 28 hours of time, which “could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities – learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.”

As someone who independently decided to deactivate his Facebook account a few months ago without regrets (save for the few times when I was a few weeks late congratulating a newly engaged couple), I echo the question posed by the 99 Days of Freedom website: “Do you ever wonder what life is like without Facebook?”

If you’re curious and want to join this experiment (no morally questionable opt-in this time), head to the 99 Days of Freedom site and unite with more than 13,600 participants who have already signed up.

For Facebook addicts in need of more severe measures, you can always resort to self-electrocution – that is, unless you have a dad willing to pay you to stop using the social network.

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