Would You Quit Facebook for 99 Days?

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Dutch communications agency Just is encouraging Facebook users to give up the network for 99 days.

The idea came about in response to Facebook’s recent mood experiments involving hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting users. It also follows past campaigns and calls from the media and high-profile Internet users to leave the social network due to its increasing invasion into users’ private lives and personal data.

The 99 days of freedom not-for-profit campaign is a mood experiment of its own, examining the question, “Are you happier without Facebook?” Users are asked “to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness.” From the press release:

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.

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 Just agency settled on 99 days after considering what would be the most effective time period — short enough not to lose participants’ interest and long enough to impact perceptions and behavior. Participants will have ongoing support and interaction through periodic surveys and posts.

On the 33-, 66- and 99-day mark participants complete an anonymous “happiness survey” with the results posted to the campaign’s website. During the break, participants have access to a message board to discuss and share the experiment’s impact on their lives.

Just’s art director Merijn Straathof said the campaign is not anti-Facebook, admitting that “we’re all fiercely loyal users and we believe that there’s a lot to love about the service.” But the campaign’s creators also believe moderation has emotional benefits. “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,” said Straathof in the press release.

Sophos’ Naked Security blog recently polled readers about the Facebook’s controversial mood experiment by asking them, “Has Facebook’s privacy stance given you enough reason to quit?” The responses are summarized as follows:

  • 32 percent Maybe. I’ve tried to quit before. I can’t quit you Facebook!
  • 26 percent No. It’s a service I signed up for knowingly. And it’s Facebook’s right to use my personal information how they see fit.
  • 26 percent Are you kidding? I don’t use Facebook.
  • 17 percent Yes. I’ve had enough! I’m deleting my account and don’t plan to reactivate it.

“Mainly, it seems like our readers feel like Facebook has gone too far, but maybe not far enough to get them to stop using it,” according to Naked Security.

But there is already a growing trend among the network’s youngest users who are increasingly spending less time on Facebook and more time on Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat (each have had their own issues with securing user data). A new social network called Sobrr hopes to entice users with its own disappearing content and 24-hour friendships.

In response to the Just campaign, Social Media Today’s Shel Holtz wrote “Please Stop Telling Me to Quit Facebook.” Holtz says there are “hundreds of reasons for sticking with Facebook despite its problems.”

I don’t mind activists and journalists reporting on Facebook’s foibles so I can be better informed to make my own decisions, but I don’t need some sanctimonious, holier-than-thou social media expert to tell me what to do, nor will a campaign influence me.

For what it’s worth, I also stick with Mad Men despite a couple of weak seasons, Taco Bell despite the fact that it’s not very good for me, and paper notepads despite the fact that there are more efficient ways to take notes. In fact, I have to make decisions about what to stick with by weighing benefits and detriments all the time.
 
Nothing’s perfect, but based on the purposes it serves and my awareness of the drawbacks, it’s my decision to make.
 
There are “quit” campaigns that have value, of course, notably the many efforts to get people to quit smoking.
 
But quit Facebook? You quit Facebook if you hate it that much. I won’t try to stop you and I sure as hell won’t mount a “stay on Facebook” campaign. But once you’re gone, I’m sure the rest of us will get by just fine without you.

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