Will avoiding Facebook make you a happier person?  An experiment to quit Facebook for three months, started as a joke, is gaining momentum.

Facebook 99 days of freedom

Facebook’s emotional manipulation and content alteration blossomed into a social experiment

The idea that started as a humorous undertone inside a small European advertising agency regarding Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s emotional manipulation study and content alteration blossomed into a full blown social experiment.

“Like a lot of Facebook users, many of us were bothered by reports of secret mood experiments,” said Just Art Director Merijn Straathof. “As we discussed it internally, we noted an interesting tendency: 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.”

But the negative sentiment turned to self help. “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!'”

Facebook’s emotional manipulation campaign

As a result of the distaste for Facebook’s emotional manipulation campaign, they first challenged co-workers and friends to take a break from Facebook to determine how the hiatus impacted their moods.  No self promoting “selfies,” stalking ex boyfriends or girlfriends, no self congratulatory status updates for 99 days was allowed, then they checked back to report how the Facebook vacation impacted their mood. Their office test eventually resulted in a full blown academic experiment that has, to date, over 8,000 study participants. Users can sign up to participate in the study at http://99daysoffreedom.com/

Study participants are requested to post a “time-off” image as their profile picture and create a personal countdown to share on the social network – ironically using the social network to promote the study that is critical of its invasive tactics.

Users receive anonymous “happiness surveys” after 33, 66, and 99 days with the results will be posted to the group’s website, where study participants can anonymously share how the break from Facebook is affecting their lives.

Quitting Facebook not only has emotional benefits, but it can also be a productivity source.  Those sponsoring the study claim shunning Facebook for 99 days will save the average user 1,683 minutes, or more than 28 hours during the three month period.