If there is one maxim about our digital lives, it might be this: You always come back to Facebook.
Sure, you may have "taken a break," going so far as to delete the app from your phone or even deactivating your account. But only about one in 10 Facebook users ever quit for good.
New research from Cornell University may help explain why it's so hard to quit the social network. In June of 2014, researchers began a campaign called 99 Days of Freedom. Those interested could visit the site, upload the project's logo as their profile photo and voluntarily pledge to disengage from Facebook for an entire 99 days. At the time the study was published, more than 40,000 people had taken the pledge.
The concept was launched strictly on social media, and was picked up by major news sites including this one. Users' commitment was based on the honor code; no technology was implemented to block them from accessing their accounts.
Of course, many people didn't make it 99 days. To determine why, the researchers sent surveys on the 33rd, 66th and 99th days of each pledge, including a mix of closed-ended questions, demographic queries and open-ended free-text responses.
After analyzing completed surveys, researchers were able to decode people's motives for reengaging with Facebook sooner than promised. These are the four reasons it's so hard to stay off the social platform:
1. You think it's addictive.
Researchers found that those who believed Facebook was addictive were more likely to check in before the 99 days were up. When Facebook users consider Facebook a habit, they are more likely to act out the habit. One participant wrote, "In the first ten days, whenever I opened up an Internet browser, my fingers would automatically go to 'F'."
2. You care who's watching.
Facebookers who use the social network to affect how other people think about them were more likely to return before the pledge ended. Users who believed their Facebook activity was being monitored (i.e. "There's no way she can keep this pledge, let's bust her") were more likely to keep with the challenge.
3. You're in a bummer mood.
This one's a doozy. People who reported being in good moods were less likely to weasel out of the pledge. This is particularly interesting because other research has found that Facebook can put you in a bad mood. If you're feeling down, Facebook probably isn't the best place to turn to for a pick-me-up.
4. Facebook is your one and only.
When people had other social networks to visit, they had an easier time staying off of Facebook.
According to researchers, the project did help people reflect about the role of social media in their lives and be more mindful about it. Many users didn't stay away from Mark Zuckerberg's first baby for the full 99 days, but they tweaked their usage, whether uninstalling the app from their phones or limiting their daily use. This could be good for anyone: You don't have to go cold turkey to reap the benefits of a mini digital detox. Limiting your check-ins to once or twice a day or setting aside some Facebook-free hours could have some positive impact on your health and stress levels.
Nevertheless, everyone loves a good challenge. Think you could make it Facebook-free for a whole 99 days? Tell us in the poll below.
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