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Would You Be Happier Without Facebook?

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New Facebook mood experiment asks, "Are you happier without Facebook?"


July 9, 2014

Leiden, The Netherlands - In response to Facebook's controversial mood experiment involving some 700,000 unwitting users, a new initiative has launched an experiment of its own -- determining how life without Facebook impacts user happiness.


The non-profit initiative, known as "99 Days of Freedom," asks users to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report-back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness. The initiative's website, 99daysoffreedom.com, provides a set of simple user instructions, which include posting a “time-off” image as a profile picture and starting a personalized, 99-day countdown clock. From there, participants are asked to complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66 and 99-day marks, with results posted to the initiative's website as they're compiled. The initiative will also host a message board through which participants can post anonymous accounts of how an extended break from Facebook is impacting their lives.


The initiative is the brainchild of Just, a creative agency based in Leiden, The Netherlands. Just's Art Director, Merijn Straathof, explains how what began as an office joke quickly morphed into an officially-funded project. "Like a lot of Facebook users, many of us were bothered by reports of secret mood experiments," says Straathof. "As we discussed it internally, we noted an interesting tendency: To a person, everyone had at least a 'complicated' relationship with Facebook. 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. Then someone joked, 'I guess that the real question is, 'How do you feel when you don't use Facebook?' There was group laughter, followed by, 'Wait a second. That's a really good question!”.


A cursory look at Facebook usage stats certainly supports the question's legitimacy. According to Facebook, it's 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes per day on the site, reading updates, following links or browsing photos. Over a three-month period, that ads-up to more than 28-hours which, the initiative’s creators contend, could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities -- learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.


The obvious question: Considering the remarkable levels of Facebook use, isn’t 99 days a pretty big ask? This, explains Straathof, is by design. “We had a lot of arguments about the experiment’s duration. If it’s too extended, participants will lose interest. If it’s too short, there’s no meaningful behavioral change to assess. In the end, we landed on a 99-day program with periodic surveys and posts, hoping that such interaction will serve as a support group of sorts. As everyone at our firm is participating in the experiment, we’ll be testing that one first-hand.”


Although Straathof and his colleagues are eager to see the experiment's results, he stresses that the initiative is neither an anti-Facebook protest nor an attempt to harm the web’s most popular site. "Facebook is an incredible platform, we’re all fiercely loyal users and we believe that there's a lot to love about the service," says Straathof. "But we also feel that there are obvious emotional benefits to moderation. Our prediction is that the experiment will yield a lot of positive personal experiences and, 99 days from now, we’ll know whether that theory has legs.”

Artwork for publication
Artwork is available for download at: http://www.hostedbyjust.com/99daysoffreedom/press.zip


About 99 Days of Freedom
99 Days of Freedom is a nonprofit initiative launched by Just B.V. (www.wearejust.com), a creative communications agency from the Netherlands. The company specializes in identities, brand strategy and online campaigns with a strong online focus. For questions about 99 Days of Freedom or Just, please contact merijn.straathof@wearejust.com.

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I think this campaign is just brilliant.  Anyone who has been reading my writing for the last couple of years already knows I think the impact of social media in general, and Facebook, in particular on the web has been quite negative.


Basically the impact has been to lower the diversity and discoverability of content on the web.  As a result, independent Black voices on the web are being silenced.  We are running fewer sites the ones that remain are getting fewer visitors.  Corporations run are many of our most popular websites and those sites focus primarily on celebrity gossip and hip-hop music. 


Facebook generally promotes the stuff that will generate the most activity on their platform. Posts with links off Facebook are simply not displayed as much as they used to be..


I rarely use Facebook for personal reasons nowadays but I generally share something from AALBC.com of a daily basis.  I was never satisfied with the duplicitous nature (using it for business and for personal stuff) of my Facebook usage.  So I'm joining this campaign for AALBC.com (and Troy Johnson) by default for 99 Days.  We will see what happens  :)


This is on the heals of Facebook's ethically questionable practices on their visitors: Did Facebook and PNAS violate human research protections in an unethical experiment?

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I just joined this effort.  Right now there are 20,836 people with me.  Sure that is less than a drop in the bucket as far as Facebook members are concerned, but for the individuals involved there may be some significant benefits.  Provided the most obsessed can get over the withdrawal period. :)


In reality the time I spend on Facebook is not a big deal.  In fact, I rarely use Facebook for personal reasons now.  So this effort is of little consequent in my own life. 


My motivation for participation has a selfish component.  I am hoping people begin to spend time visiting other websites (including this one) rather than giving Facebook so much of their time. 


The Internet is drying up. The Black presence is most afflicted.  For example, I just deleted 7 websites from my Black book website database, including Blackliterature.com, mosaicbooks.com, rawsistaz.com, and others. 


Some of these sites have migrated their web presence to Facebook, but a Facebook page pales in comparison to full blown website.  But I understand why it is done; despite all the technology available to make building a website easy, running a viable one, that people actually, visit is much, much harder today. I hope my participation in this effort raises awareness of this fact.




While I won't be using the Facebook platform directly, I will continue to share information from other websites to Facebook.  That is not cheating is it?

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I use FaceBook as much as it uses me.  I take advantage of the captive audience and treat my wall like a blog.  I editorialize on threads all the time and the good thing is that I feel no pressure to do this daily.  Scrolling up and down Facebook Lane provides an opportunity to observe humanity in all of its pathetic glory.  It can also serve as a mirror for doing this.  :wacko:


Excuse me while I go post an old picture for "Throw Back Thursday".  ;)

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I hear you Cynique. But Facebook uses you, me and everyone else far more than we use them.   What we get in return, pales in comparison with what they earn as a result of our activity.  They should share some of the wealth.


That said, avoiding Facebook is actually not as easy as you might think.  First, many Google searches on an author's name returns a Facebook page.  Also many people link to Facebook from their own websites.  I accidentally clicked a link to Facebook from an author's Blog moments ago. 


You can't just simply say I'm not going to use Facebook.  You have to actively work at avoiding Facebook, if you are online as much as I am.  Facebook as done a remarkable job dominating the web.  Facebook's gangsta is prodigious and quite admirable in a notorious way.


I don't know anyone else who has joined this experiment. Only 0.0019% or 24,136 people out of Facebook's approximately 1,300,000,000 users gave signed up as of now.  I've had more people sign up for my eNewsletter.


I guess, at the end of the day, those who have issues with Facebook aren't using, and those you use it aren't about to stop.  These simply don't care enough one way or the other.

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I stumbled across this image on a Portuguese language blog truth is universal despite the language.


I've been taking to my kids about my anti-facebook obsession.  They liked my aversion to Facebook to any unwillingness to use the phone or email.  I failed to communicate my dislike for Facebook in terms they can relate to or agree with.  I notice there is a generation gap on this issue.  Even if someone my age disagrees with me they "get it."  I have not encountered a 20-something can related on any level to my impressions.


I looked more into the experimentation The experiment indeed revealed that if Facebook presented members with information that skewed negative, their posts skewed negative.  The practice of manipulating what we see  raised numerous ethics questions by the scientific community.

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There are 31,392 others who have joined the campaign; a negligible portion of the Facebook user community. 


It is surprisingly difficult not to use Facebook.  Someone is always telling me about something funny or cute they saw on someones wall.  As I gather information about authors much of the information I'm finding in Google queries point to Facebook. I actually have to consciously avoid using Facebook.


I also have a bunch of other social media platforms that automatically post to Facebook.  I have not tried to stop this type of sharing.  I'll just be satisfied with not logging onto he application or visiting the website.


I also use my Facebook account to log into websites, like this one.  I will start using my Twitter account to log into this discussion forum. 


I also deleted the social media aps from from my cell phone--all of them, not just Facebook.


Interestingly, there has been a 50% increase in my referral traffic from Facebook in the two weeks I've stopped visiting the website.


But keep in mind my referral traffic from Facebook is down 63% compared to 4 years ago when I had 4 times the number of friends/fans/followers/subscribers (whatever they are now called). 




This is another reason I'm considering abandoning Facebook for business purposes.  Despite more frequent posting and and MANY more friends I'm getting less traffic from Facebook.  I will most likely continue the automated posts as that does generate traffic, and business, with negligible effort.

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I've completed 33 days of my 99 days without Facebook. To date the have only been 33,683 people who have joined the experiment.  This is less than the number of people who visited this website during the same people.  Again out of the Billion plus Facebook users, 33K is nothing...nothing.


The goal of the experiment was to get 99,000 participants, but even 99 thousand participants is nothing, relatively speaking.


I just filled out a survey which asked me if I was happier, or less happy, after 33 days of not using Facebook. 


Using Facebook has had no impact on my life one way or the other.  If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, the only reason I would care is that I would probably see an increase in website traffic.  Otherwise I would miss Facebook about as much as I miss...MySpace.


I am concerned about the impact of social media, in general, on our society and culture, and Facebook figures prominently in that.  But still there are many more things I'm concerned about that take more precedence.


I was also asked what my friends thought of my participation in this 99 day abstinence from Facebook.  I wrote they largely do not care.  My friends who are active on Facebook showed no interest in participating and have not inquired about my experience and my friends who are not on Facebook damn sure don't care.

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I gave up on this experiment after 37 days.  I was just running into to much difficulty running AALBC.com avoiding the use of Facebook.  Many writers, more than I anticipated, have very little content about themselves online other than what is on Facebook.


When I logged into Facebook I was also surprised by the number of people who attempted to contact me on Facebook--despite what I thought was ample notice that I would not be using the platform--and these were people who actually know me and who have my email address.




My friend Marcia posed this photo of me Facebook.  it is one of those shots that did not know existed.  I don't recall if it was a candid shot or if I was posing.


In the good old days Marcia would have posted this shot on her website site (or mine), and sent me and anyone else she wanted to to see this photo and the other she took a link.  Facebook would not be able to exert any control, or ownership of the content. 


I'm not even sure when or where the photo was taken, but Facebook knows because the information is digitally encoded in digital image that was uploaded. 

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