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99 Days Of Freedom? Are You Up For This Facebook Challenge?

July 10, 2014
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

We’ve all heard the adage that the struggle to form a habit, good or bad, requires 21 days of consistent and mindful action. Unfortunately, the myth behind the three-week transformation was exposed in an excellent article written by Jason Selk with Forbes last year. In it, he detailed a two-pronged continual approach originally conceived by esteemed business coach Tom Bartow that consists of ‘the Honeymoon’ and ‘the Fight-Thru’.

Maybe 21 days isn’t long enough to build a habit of happiness, but a Dutch non-profit creative agency is spearheading an effort to see if little more than 3 months might make you a happier person with a new initiative they are calling 99 Days of Freedom.

With last month’s revelation that Facebook, working with researchers from Cornell University and the University of California, San Francisco, had enacted an algorithm to manipulate the newsfeeds of nearly 700,000 users to present an increase in positive or negative posts to their walls, a mistrust of the social network has slowly but steadily been taking hold across the Internet. The study showed that the users who, without their knowledge or consent, were presented with more negatively-worded content tended to post more negatively themed content themselves as a result.

Facebook’s case was not bolstered when the company’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg addressed the slowly simmering issue with a “Sorry/Not Sorry” apology that didn’t offer a mea culpa on behalf of Facebook for manipulating the moods of their users, but rather claimed regret for how the study was communicated to the public. Paraphrasing Sandberg, “We’re not sorry for the study. We’re sorry you found out about it.”

The Dutch creative agency, Just, is offering their own less intrusive experiment to manipulate the emotions of Facebook users. And unlike the study that led to this moment, each user is fully aware if and when they choose to participate.

The website set up for this broad social experiment explains just how simple it is to participate in their initiative. The three-step process begins with individuals downloading a profile image meant to advertise to friends and followers on Facebook that you are taking the next 99 days off. The next step is to “share your last link (at least for now)” by posting a 99 day countdown clock to your Facebook page. These first two steps are really very easy and take literally less than 99 seconds to complete.

Step three is perhaps where most people will find they have the biggest issue. The final step is to walk away from Facebook for 99 days. Like an addict stepping away from drugs, alcohol or food, it might help to work on this step one day at a time.

As reported at Time.com, Just’s Art Director, Merijn Straathof, explained that the project came from brainstorming after news of Facebook’s controversial mood experiments went viral. “As we discussed it internally, we noted an interesting tendency: To a person, everyone had at least a ‘complicated’ relationship with Facebook,” Straathof said. “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!’”

The entire goal is to measure if persons who give themselves a three-plus month holiday from the social network will attain a higher level of happiness. To this end, Just will check-in with participants at the 33rd, 66th and 99th days to see if their happiness-index has increased as a result.

Even if your happiness-index doesn’t necessarily increase, based on the average of 17 minutes each day a user spends on Facebook, the creative group highlights another interesting fact. By abstaining from Facebook for 99 days, users will gain 28 hours of time that otherwise would have been wasted on forwards, status updates and reading infuriating links posted by that one cousin of yours that definitely doesn’t agree with you politically.

This latest salvo in the online battle for freedom should make Facebook sit up and take notice. Users are slowly awakening to the realization that the social network views them not as customers, but as the product. Along with companies like Amazon and Google, Facebook is collecting troves of data on each user all with the goal of figuring out how to sell services and products.

Over at Inc.com, an interesting article was recently published about a group of upstarts that are placing the Facebooks of the world squarely in their sights. The article, entitled “The Revolution Will Not Be Monetized,” details how new companies are forming with the sole purpose of providing platforms for users who want to retain control of if, when and how their data is used.

Profiled in the article was CEO of the top-secret grade messaging app Wickr, Nico Sell. Discussing once-trusted companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and, yes, even Apple, she said, “They are stealing. I think that Google and Facebook, in another 30 years when we look back, will be the robber barons of our time.”

It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. With news out of the Netherlands today, it appears the 99 day path to happiness begins with a decision on day one.

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Source: Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online



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