Can Quitting Facebook Make You Happier? 99 Days of Freedom Wants to Find Out

In light of Facebook’s odd, manipulative, and legally and ethically questionable mood experiment, I’m sure there are a great many out there who are swearing off the social network for good. But instead of just rage-quitting, why not use your absence for the powers of good? A Dutch non-profit initiative called 99 Days of Freedom is asking Internet users the world over to do just that. Unlike Facebook, this project’s goal isn’t to manipulate its subjects without asking them for their consent first. Rather, it’s geared towards sussing out how life without Facebook impacts the overall happiness of consenting participants.

“Like a lot of Facebook users, many of us were bothered by reports of secret mood experiments,” said Merijn Straathof, Art Director of Just, the creative agency behind the initiative, in a press release. “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.” The idea to explore how people feel when they don’t use Facebook was initially brought up as a joke — but when they realized that it was actually a question worth exploring, they got to work.

The result is a website that helps users who decide to participate in the experiment track their progress over 99 consecutive Facebook-free days. There’s a personalized countdown clock, an image for you to upload as your profile picture during your absence, and some simple, easy-to-follow instructions; all 99 Days of Freedom asks in return is that you take a completely anonymous “happiness survey” at the 33-, 66-, and 99-day marks. There’s also a message board participants can use to discuss how their break from Facebook is impacting everything else going on in their lives.

As of this writing there are over 1,150 participants “enjoying freedom” (as the 99 Days of Freedom website puts it). That may not seem like much, considering that Facebook passed 1.23 billion monthly active users, 945 million mobile users, and 757 million daily users back in January; but given that 99 Days of Freedom just started, there’s plenty of room to grow. How many people actually stick with it is another thing entirely… but I hope that those who decide to try it do go the full 99 days. There’s no word about whether there’s an end date in mind, or whether a full report will be published if or when that end date is reached; I’ll be interested to see what they find, though, should Just ultimately decide to release the experiment’s results. They’re right: We know a lot about how Facebook affects us in our everyday lives, but we don’t have a lot of information about how life with Facebook compares with life sans Facebook.

Would you give up Facebook for 99 days in the name of science? If you do, let us know how it goes!