“Pi” the Movie


My mind is always working on problems related to the meaning of life and the nature of the universe. Yep, that’s me. Even my days of dance and rave had a metaphysical quality. As I grow older and closer to death, however, I find myself more distant from answers about That Which Is than ever before. I know nothing; have little relationship with the One I used to know. At best I am an agnostic. In the dark times I am a nihilist.

The other night I had a dream. I had purchased tickets to a movie called “Pi.” When we got to the theatre we were refused entry because the theatre had been rented for the night by a group of men with beards. Yesterday after I woke I searched for the movie “Pi” and realized that I had a copy of it. I recalled seeing it when it was released in 1998 and we watched it last night. “Pi” is all about math, religion, mysticism and the relationship of the universe to mathematics. Some interesting messages in it for me. Take a look at the film. Well worth the time.

Pope Francis: Christmas Festivities a ‘Charade’ in World Filled With ‘War and Hate’

“God weeps, Jesus weeps” for those who suffer from war and hate, says the Argentine pontiff.

Photo Credit: Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock.com

Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen “war and hate,” Pope Francis said Thursday.

“Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path,” he said in a sermon.

“There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” he said after the worst terror attack in French history, the bombing of a Russian airliner, a double suicide bombing in Lebanon, and a series of other deadly strikes.

“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” the Argentine pontiff said, adding: “God weeps, Jesus weeps.”

The sermon threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled.

The 82-foot- high pine hails from former Pope Benedict XVI’s homeland, the German state of Bavaria. The tree, which will be decorated in time for the start of the Vatican’s Holy Year on December 8, will be festooned with ornaments made by children from cancer wards in hospitals across Italy. This year’s nativity scene will be made up of 24 life-size figures, sculpted from wood and handpainted.

In a nod to Pope Francis’ humble style, alongside the figures from the story of Jesus’ birth will be sculptures of ordinary people, including a man supporting an elderly person in need.



“Liquid Sky”: This glam early-’80s sci-fi masterpiece that predicted the AIDS crisis could disappear forever

The influential film’s original stock is deteriorating, right when it should be poised for a revival

"Liquid Sky": This glam early-'80s sci-fi masterpiece that predicted the AIDS crisis could disappear forever

A glowing spaceship appears over the New York City skyline as dissonant New Wave music fills the multiple ears with their dangling rings. Junkies, models, poseurs and performance artists feed off each other in a battle to be the most fierce, all the while unaware that tiny aliens are harnessing their ecstasy. Most visitors to New York go to Serendipity for a frozen hot chocolate — these buggers are literally fueling their space ship with the power of the human orgasm, which turns the screen electric blue and red and green and purple.

“Liquid Sky” is set in New York City in the few years between disco and AIDS when young denizens indulged in exhibitionistic sex and hard drugs and took their fashion cues from the gleefully androgynous English New Romantic movement (big hair, frills, ruffles, theatrical make up). They danced like rusty robots in neon lit nightclubs. Within this odd demimonde Margaret (Anne Carlisle) lives and works as a successful model. She has the perfect life, with one exception: she kills everyone she has sex with, whether that sex is loving, non-consensual or even with her male doppelganger “Jimmy” (also played by Anne Carlisle, then a face at the Mudd Club, a key hangout of the period). Margaret is high maintenance (“You know this bitch takes two hours to go get ready to go anywhere,” says girlfriend Adrian, who nearly steals the film with her performance of “Me and My Rhythm Box”).

Shot in Ed Koch’s crumbling New York on a tiny budget, “Liquid Sky”’s now highly-influential look, which has informed the costumes of everyone from Karen O to Lady Gaga and Sia, came largely from Carlisle’s closet or thrift shop shopping bags. Carlisle, director Slava Tsukerman and co-producer Nina Kerova created a new kind of glamor queen who, Bowie-like, quite easily stokes the desire of the men and women — before leaving a crystal spike in the back of their brain. “I kill people that fuck me,” the character confesses. Is it worth it? Almost. Is it almost ghoulishly predictive? Absolutely. This was 1982.

“They already had AIDS, but it wasn’t that publicized,” says Tsukerman, who swears the film was conceived as science fiction. Tsukerman, who traveled from Moscow to Hollywood and then found himself in Carlisle’s fast-fashion world, where it seemed that everyone was a dancer, painter, band member, filmmaker or actor, adds, “The information about AIDS came after Liquid Sky.”

Carlisle was equally aghast when her real life friends began dying of this new sexually transmitted disease. “It was so amazing, because the film is really about dying from sex and then everyone started dropping. It was really, really eerie. That happens sometimes in creative life. You do something and it’s an accident that it actually comes true. It’s mystical.”

The two were already well established in the world of downtown film before “Liquid Sky” was co-conceived. Tsukerman had a film called “Sweeet Sixteen” which was nearly financed. “It was about a girl who was killed in a car accident in 1935 and her father, a crazy scientist, saves her head and makes a mechanical body,” he says. Andy Warhol was supposedly committed make an appearance. Carlisle had a film called “The Fish” which she was showing around the clubs. When the pair met, it was clear that Tsukerman found his muse — but he had reservations, once “Liquid Sky” began pre-production, that Carlisle, primarily a painter, model and self described “nihilist” who attended the School of Visual Arts, could handle the role of both Margaret and Jimmy, even though, as she recalls, “I had a boy’s haircut and a mini skirt. No one else was doing that.” Carlisle convinced him one day. “We were scouting locations and I dressed as a man and I picked up a girl in front of him and that was my audition,” she says. “She thought I was a boy. I admitted I was a girl and she said she was still into it.”

“Liquid Sky” has a pre-apocalyptic feel of the Cold War sci-fi with the slickness of much more expensive films like its contemporary “Blade Runner,” but the budget (about a half-million) nearly sparked a mutiny. “The crew was paid very little and they did revolt at one point over the food,” Carlisle says. “They were worked day and night. We worked terrible hours. That the film got made at all was a miracle. It was really — at one point, I was arguing with them, we’re making art here and you’re worried about food. And he said you’re making art here. We want pizza!”

Unlike Ridley Scott’s film, “Liquid Sky” was shot through with a kind of self-deprecating, New York Jewish humor. A rumpled, hapless professor (the lanky Otto von Wehnherr) is on the trail of the alien spacecraft and bumbles his way through the jaded world, where few believe or even care that there might be visitors feeding on the heat of human sexual climax. They’re fixated on their next score, or on Chinese take out.

The film, released in the summer of ’82 at media-heavy film festivals, beginning in Montreal, quickly became a minor sensation. This was the height of the second British cultural invasion (Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran) which was of a piece with Carlilse’s androgyny and gear. It played at the Waverly Theater in New York City for about four years and Carlisle became a star, posing in and out of male drag for (warning: link NSFW) one of Playboy’s strangest photo shoots.

Carlisle briefly moved to Hollywood and got an agent, but was confused that the only parts offered to her were supporting roles in films like “Crocodile Dundee.” She returned to New York somewhat broken. “I went into psychoanalysis.” By then, Rock Hudson had announced he had AIDS and the disease was soon a household world. Carlisle didn’t feel responsible for her and Tsukerman’s vision, but it haunted her nonetheless.

“I went to school to become an art therapist to help people who were dying,” she said. “I actually was so moved by it I changed my life. I said, I have to do something other than pursue acting.”

However, neither Carlisle nor Tsukerman let go of Margaret. Carlisle wrote a novel based on her character and Tsukerman began piecing together material designed to document the making of the film, whose status as both a prescient New York story and a fashion touchstone has grown over the years (a Liquid Sky boutique on Manhattan’s Lafayette Street operated for a while). The soundtrack by the un-trained Tsukerman — loud, atonal but funky — inspired the more abrasive elements of the Electroclash movement of the late ’90s.

Innovative and influential as it is, one would assume that Liquid Sky is in the queue to become part of the permanent collection of the Criterion Editions or even MOMA, but in reality the original 35 mm film stock is decaying. “We need money,” Carlisle says. Tsukerman is racing time to raise the funds to restore the film, planning both a crowdfunding endeavor and completion on the documentary. Meanwhile there’s a sequel in the works — its working title is  “Vagina Warriors.”

“We’re writing the script,” says Tsukerman. “We’ve stayed friends.” Carlisle is guarded about the story, but will say, “Margaret comes back and she changes other women.”

Meanwhile, in an age where society is exploring the nature of gender more rapidly than ever in history, a film like “Liquid Sky” certainly deserves a second life. “I hear it a lot,” says Carlisle. “People say that it changed their life. Especially people who were marginalized. They felt like they were not understood by anyone and then they saw this film and said. ‘Oh, no, there’s more like me out there.”

Marc Spitz is the author of “Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the ’90s” (Da Capo Press). Follow Marc Spitz at @marcspitz.

Force of Destiny—a thoughtful film about surviving cancer

By Richard Phillips
16 November 2015

Written and directed by Paul Cox

Force of Destiny, veteran filmmaker Paul Cox’s latest feature, is an intimate work about what happens when an individual is diagnosed with terminal cancer and how the ensuing struggle impacts on the victim and his or her immediate friends and relatives.

Cox, who has made over 40 documentaries and features during his four-decade, career is one of Australia’s few independent directors. His most enduring works—Lonely Hearts (1982), Man of Flowers (1983), My First Wife(1984), Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh (1987), A Woman’s Tale (1991), Innocence (2000), Nijinsky: The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky (2001)—are emotionally authentic and leisurely paced, low budget films. These stories are mainly drawn from Cox’s own personal experiences (with the obvious exception of the Van Gogh and Nijinsky films) and focus on the life and times of close friends—actors, artists and working-class people—individuals looking for solace in a harsh world. And so it is with his latest film.

Force of Destiny

The central figure in Force of Destiny is Robert (David Wenham), a middle-aged sculptor living a comfortable but modest semi-rural existence somewhere outside Melbourne. A relatively successful artist, he is pre-occupied with his work until he is given the shattering news that he has terminal cancer and will die if he does not receive a liver transplant within six months.

Robert’s former wife Hannah (Jacqueline McKenzie), his daughter Poppy (Hannah Fredericksen) and various friends do everything they can to assist. Hannah proposes to move back into the sculptor’s house to care for him, an offer he appreciates but rejects.

Still in denial, he is irritated by the fuss being made about him and stubbornly insists that he is capable of dealing with whatever lies ahead. Poppy, his daughter, is one of the few people he feels comfortable with. While not every patient is suitable to receive a liver transplant, Robert is put on the waiting list. Unfortunately there are no appropriate livers available for the sculptor—the organ must be taken from someone recently deceased—and in the months that follow his health rapidly deteriorates.

Force of Destiny

During these dark and difficult times, Robert meets and falls in love with Maya (Shahana Goswami), a marine biologist from India whose uncle is also dying from cancer. The sculptor’s new-found love and several visits to India give Robert an inner strength despite his failing physical condition. Just when it appears that he will die, a liver becomes available and the transplant is successful.

While Force of Destiny is not entirely autobiographical, the story’s general framework and dramatic underpinnings are drawn from Cox’s personal situation. The 75-year-old filmmaker was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009 and given six months to live. He was at death’s door when he eventually received a transplant. During post-operative care he met and fell in love with Rosie Raka, another liver transplant recipient and now his partner.

To decide to make Force of Destiny and commence the arduous process of raising the funds for it, followed by the physical demands of the shooting and editing schedules, involved a good deal of courage on Cox’s part. Effectively dramatising the complex emotional issues facing those living on the edge of a life-and-death abyss is a major artistic challenge. Such an endeavour could easily produce an introverted and mawkish work.

Cox has avoided such pitfalls. He has produced an honest, hopeful work and one with strong and committed performances from his cast, several of whom regularly work with the filmmaker. David Wenham, a fine actor, who appears in virtually every scene, is understated and thoroughly convincing. There is real chemistry between him and the three key women in the sculptor’s life.

The filmmaker’s sensitivity to the plight of ordinary people and their inner emotions is a characteristic feature of all Cox’s work. Some of the movie’s most powerful moments are several short scenes in the public hospital cancer ward where working-class patients are stoically, and with real heroism, battling the disease. One of these deeply-effecting vignettes involves an old man visiting his wife. He brings her flowers and gently sings to her. Another scene involves a mother on her death bed. She prepares to see her daughter for the last time, applying lipstick and makeup in an attempt to give some colour to her thin and pallid face.

Force of Destiny is not without its weaknesses, however, and lacks the emotional complexity of Cox’s Lonely Hearts and A Woman’s Tale, which were made in the early 1980s and 1990s, respectively.

Robert’s trips to India are somewhat confused—it is not clear when and how he travelled there—and the scenes with Maya’s dying uncle give the movie a mystical edge. These sit uncomfortably with Cox’s naturalistic style. Visual sequences accompanying Robert’s unconscious thoughts and dreams—surreal images of medical procedures and internal organs and old photographs and film clips—are also problematic. While some of this material is striking, Cox overuses the technique and it loses its dramatic impact.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, Force of Destiny is an optimistic work and one that brings real humanity to its subject matter.

Force of Destiny premiered at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival but has not yet been given an extended local release in Australian cinemas. Cox continues to fight his own difficult battle with liver cancer and recently learned that the disease had returned and infected the transplanted liver. Despite this, the veteran filmmaker has been energetically promoting the film, appearing at single “special event” screenings in selected cities across Australia over the past three months. Cox’s film deserves wider distribution.

The author also recommends:

Veteran filmmaker Paul Cox discusses his latest feature
[16 Nov 2015]



More bizarro Ben Carson stories

New World Order paranoia and a personalized portrait of Jesus

Elaborate conspiracy theories. Saddam Hussein-style home decor. They don’t make candidates weirder than Dr. Ben VIDEO

More bizarro Ben Carson stories emerge: New World Order paranoia and a personalized portrait of Jesus
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

The past week has been a torrent of crazy Ben Carson stories. First he stabbed a friend when he was young, and then he didn’t. He got a full scholarship to West Point, and then it turns out they don’t actually give those. It appears, at this point, basically nothing in Carson’s memoir is credible. Let us sort out the latest bizarre tales from the past 48 hours.

Old video shows Ben Carson thinks there’s a New World Order out to get America. 

This one’s been floating around online for a while, but resurfaced on social media yesterday: A video of Ben Carson going after the New World Order which vaguely has to do with atheists and socialists trying to destroy America. As an atheist and a socialist, I can assure Mr. Carson our goal is not to destroy America, but rather the people who run it.

Check out the clip yourself. Begin at roughly the 0:58 mark:

Guardian profile: Carson has a painting of himself with Jesus in his house.

The highlight of the day on Twitter were photos from a rather scathing Guardian profile that dropped Saturday afternoon.

Ben Carson’s house: a homage to himself in pictures.

The piece is full of gems. Carson’s house is like something out of Saddam Hussein’s palace: pictures of himself marked by weird historic fantasy role play.

Honesty at Yale’s Perceptions 301 

This is my personal favorite. The Wall Street Journal has revealed an anecdote in Ben Carson’s memoir to be entirely bogus. It’s a tale of Ben Carson being taught a lesson in “honesty” by a Yale professor in a terribly convoluted and implausible way. What’s shocking about the story is not how goofy and madeup it obviously is, but how this fact went entirely unnoticed for almost 25 years since his memoir’s release. Here’s the Journal‘s explanation:

In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” Mr. Carson writes of a Yale psychology professor who told Mr. Carson, then a junior, and the other students in the class—identified by Mr. Carson as Perceptions 301—that their final exam papers had “inadvertently burned,” requiring all 150 students to retake it. The new exam, Mr. Carson recalled in the book, was much tougher. All the students but Mr. Carson walked out.

“The professor came toward me. With her was a photographer for the Yale Daily News who paused and snapped my picture,” Mr. Carson wrote. “ ‘A hoax,’ the teacher said. ‘We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class.’” Mr. Carson wrote that the professor handed him a $10 bill.

No photo identifying Mr. Carson as a student ever ran, according to the Yale Daily News archives, and no stories from that era mention a class called Perceptions 301. Yale Librarian Claryn Spies said Friday there was no psychology course by that name or class number during any of Mr. Carson’s years at Yale.

First off: $10? Why would the professor stage this elaborate ruse? And how does this make Carson “honest” rather than just a sap? Why would a professor sadistically give a harder test after “accidently burning” an earlier one? Why would this result in a mass walkout, sans Carson, rather than a discussion? What is going on here?

These questions remain unanswered by the Carson camp.

Ben Carson protecting white high school classmates during the 1968 Detriot riots the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

This one is equally dubious. The Daily News explained:

Last month, Carson detailed how he protected his white high school classmates the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 assassination. Race riots ravaged Detroit’s Southwestern High, which enrolled more black students than white students.

Carson, a junior lab assistant with a key to the school’s biology workroom, shepherded his frightened friends to the lab to shield them from the violence, he told the Wall Street Journal.

It makes sense that in a party of largely white conservatives, Carson would try to position himself as someone who saved whites from a mob of angry blacks, but here we are. Like the other allegations, the Carson camp can’t provide any corroborating evidence to back up this claim, and given the false West Point and Yale tales, we have little reason to believe this story is true either. Carson has a quite a credibility problem he’ll have to answer for in the coming days if he’s serious about running for president. The reality is though, he probably isn’t.




GOP voters want an apocalypse

The truth about Trump & Carson’s success

We’ve long since passed the time when Trump & Carson could be written off. Something’s different this election

GOP voters want an apocalypse: The truth about Trump & Carson's success
(Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill)

For the last couple of years, the conventional wisdom has been that the Republican Party potential presidential field was an embarrassment of riches. Their “bench” was so chock full of executive talent, they barely had room for them all. This was always discussed in the context of the Democratic Party’s sad little group of ancient mariners who might well have already been set on the ice floe in an earlier time.

It’s interesting how that’s unfolding. None of the governors are panning out. Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose record running one of the biggest state’s successfully on a Republican platform was no help, dropped out first; followed by the union slaying Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Both had been highly touted as excellent presidential material based on their records. None of the current and former governors, from Bush to Kasich, Christie, Huckabee, Jindal and Pataki, have caught fire either. Between them, they have decades of executive experience and yet they can’t get any momentum. This flies in the face of everything we’ve ever heard about the Republican reverence for state government, for executive experience and the ability to get results from Republican policies.

For a long time it was assumed that Senators were unsuited for the task of the presidency, what with their lack experience “running things.” Not that this stopped them from running for president, but it hadn’t escaped anyone’s notice that until 2008 the last Senator to become president had been elected in 1960. Barack Obama broke that long streak and the Republicans have a handful of Senators to choose from in 2016. Two of the four in the race, Rubio and Cruz, seem to be doing slightly better than the governors, and are at this point seen as “establishment” alternatives, even though neither of them are polling at more than 11 percent. The third, Rand Paul, once touted as the leader of a new libertarian, isolationist Republican Party, has turned out to be irrelevant. The fourth, Senator Lindsay Graham, is a joke.

There you have the vaunted GOP bench — the well-prepared, highly qualified, totally experienced group of veterans, any one of whom the country was supposed to be able to see as president. And Republican primary voters can’t stand any of them. They are, instead, enthralled with two men who have never held public office, and seem not to even understand our system of government or care how it works.

The Hill asked some Republican strategists to explain this phenomenon:

“It’s a different test this time around,” said GOP strategist David Payne. “Experience, executive experience, these aren’t the tests. It’s about the right ideas and the right temperament and coming off as tough. You see how important the debates have been. Style and presentation matter more than ever, more even than if you were a great leader in the past.” […]

“Republicans this year don’t want managers, they want transformers,” conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, a Cruz supporter, told The Hill. “They don’t want reform, they want revolution. They don’t want a better government, they want a new government. The ground has shifted and the grassroots conservatives have taken the establishment’s preeminence away.”

Say what you will about Trump and Carson, they are both entertaining. But it’s the revolutionary aspect of their candidacies that’s interesting.

It’s not exactly a surprise that Republican voters hate government. It’s been their number one organizing principle for years. In fact, the Sainted Ronald Reagan himself was known for his saying “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” And we know they hate liberals. They have spent decades denigrating the philosophy,the ideology and even the word itself. But until now they haven’t hated the Republican Party. And boy do they hate it.

What seems to have happened is that GOP base voters feel betrayed and disillusioned because they voted for a Republican Congress and that Congress has failed to deliver the agenda on which they ran. First of all, they failed to remove President Obama from office, either through impeachment or at the ballot box in 2012. They also failed to repeal Obamacare,”close the borders,” ban abortion, stop gay marriage, or end political correctness, just for starters.

Someone forgot to tell Republican voters that there are three branches of government regulated by checks and balances, and other people in their own party, as well as the opposition party, who have different agendas competing with their own. If you listen to right-wing media and follow what’s being said in the conservative bubble, it’s understandable. They were told that they won a huge mandate, and now they quite logically blame the people who have been making promises they don’t keep.

When they listen to these professional politicians running for their party’s nomination, they just hear more of the same — and they don’t want to hear it anymore. They want someone who will assure them that this creaky government system with all those checks and balances, and all the resultant gridlock, will not be a hinderance to achievement of their agenda. They are tired of waiting. And right now they have two presidential candidates who are promising a different way of doing things.

Donald Trump is running to be a strongman. It’s all about him “getting the job done” because he’s smarter and tougher than everyone else. (This is a familiar archetype and Trump’s specific relationship to it is fascinatingly explored in this piece by Rick Perlstein, called “Donald Trump and the F-word.”) Ben Carson is a little bit more complicated. He’s running as a quasi-religious leader who will be able to overcome all these obstacles through the same miraculous process that has characterized his life story. (The recent questions about some details of that very famous life story have only resulted in adding martyrdom to his mystique.) In both cases, the people who like them are not merely attracted to the fact that these men are outsiders, but also by qualities that will ostensibly allow them to transcend the normal process of democratic government. Despite their professions of love for the constitution, these voters no longer believe in the system of government that constitution sets forth.

It’s still possible that these voters are simply “sending a message” to the powers that be, telling them that they are at the ends of their ropes. That’s certainly what the establishment hopes is happening:

Republicans like Cullen, who says he cannot support Trump, Carson or Cruz, say it’s still early, and the party will rally behind they types of candidates it’s nominated in the past.

“Some of these guys still look like summer love affairs to me, even if we’re well into the fall now,” he said. “I still think voters will want look to take the polished young man home that they can show off to mom and dad.”

That courtly tone sounds as out of place in the Trump era as if he were speaking Elizabethan english. These Republican voters have been listening to talk radio and watching Fox news and reading thousands of Tea Party emails for years and they want a man of action. When they talk about revolution it’s not the white wigged American style. They’re thinking of something much more “top-down.”


Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

A week off from Facebook? Participants in Danish experiment like this

Group who quit site for a week felt less stressed and spoke more with family and friends face to face, in study by Danish Happiness Research Institute

People taking pictures under blooming cherry blossoms at the cemetery of Bispebjerg in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Those in the Danish study that quit the social media site for week said they felt a ‘calmness from not being confronted by Facebook all the time’. Photograph: Sophia Juliane Lydoplh/EPA

“We look at a lot of data on happiness and one of the things that often comes up is that comparing ourselves to our peers can increase dissatisfaction,” said Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

“Facebook is a constant bombardment of everyone else’s great news, but many of us look out of the window and see grey skies and rain (especially in Denmark!),” he said. “This makes the Facebook world, where everyone’s showing their best side, seem even more distortedly bright by contrast, so we wanted to see what happened when users took a break.”

Participants aged between 16 and 76 were quizzed before the experiment began on how satisfied they felt, how active their social life was, how much they compared themselves to others, and how easy they found it to concentrate. The group was then split, with half behaving as normal and half agreeing to abstain from Facebook for seven days – “a big ask for many,” according to Wiking.

Stine Chen, 26, found it tough at first, saying: “Facebook’s been a huge part of life since I was a teenager and lots of social activities are organised around it.”

It was also a challenge for Sophie Anne Dornoy, 35: “When I woke up, even before getting out of bed, I’d open Facebook on my phone just to check if something exciting or important had happened during the night. I worried I’d end up on Facebook just out of habit.”

She deleted the smartphone app and blocked the site on her desktop to reduce temptation. “After a few days, I noticed my to-do list was getting done faster than normal as I spent my time more productively,” she said. “I also felt a sort of calmness from not being confronted by Facebook all the time.”

A week later, the group who had abstained reported higher levels of life satisfaction and better concentration, as well as feeling less lonely, less stressed and more sociable.

“My flatmates and I had to chat instead of just checking Facebook,” said Chen. Dornoy found she had longer conversations on the phone than normal and reached out more to family and friends: “It felt good to know that the world doesn’t end without Facebook and that people are still able to reach you if they want to,” she said.

The next step for researchers is to assess how long the positive effects of a social media sabbatical last, and what happens when volunteers go without Facebook for extended periods. “I’d like to try for a year,” said Wiking, “but we’d have to see how many volunteers we get for that.”