It seems as though Facebook, the king of social media, may be gradually losing control of its kingdom. In recent months, users have been leaving the website in a fashion reminiscent of the tragic death of MySpace in 2009. With some loyal Facebook users leaving the site, the University of Vienna conducted a study to discover what motivates Facebook quitters.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most common reasons subjects give for quitting Facebook is concern over who sees their pictures, and everybody has that one old relative who comments on everything. Not everyone, it appears, wants future employers to access images from their Mod parties.
The two other big complaints are the frequency of Facebook’s layout changes, and the fact that it is a major time-suck. Alex, A&S ‘15, says she left Facebook because she “just kept staring at it waiting for something interesting to happen and it never did. It was just a big, pointless distraction.”
The Vienna study highlights which demographics of Facebook users have decided to quit. Male users are much more likely to quit than female users. Quitters are also usually older; the Facebook users are 24 years old, while Facebook quitters are, on average, 31 years old.
Quitters generally have fewer friends than the typical Facebook user, with 133 friends, which is significantly fewer than loyal Facebook users who have an average of more then 350 friends.
The quitters are also more conscientious than average Facebookers. One anonymous freshman says that he quit Facebook because he “didn’t want it to distract [him] from schoolwork this year.”
Other studies have found that people quit Facebook because constant presence on the site has been found to lower self-esteem and lead to depression. Researchers at two German universities found that one in three people actually feel worse after visiting Facebook. This feeling generally originates from users comparing their lives to the posts on their news feeds.
If Facebook is so detrimental to our mental health, productivity and privacy, then why do we keep using it? Most BC students were incredibly confused when this question was presented. Most loyal, college-age Facebook users simply see Facebook as a fact of life, a necessity. You have a toothbrush, food, clothes and a Facebook account.
BC students see their news feed as necessary for keeping up with friends from home while class Facebook groups provide ample entertainment and connect students to events around campus. Quitting Facebook has been called “virtual identity suicide,” that is, killing off the virtual you, but more and more people are deciding to kill their virtual selves in favor of their physical selves.
When a user attempts to deactivate a Facebook account, Facebook begs the user to rethink the decision. The deactivation page shoes the message, “Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?” and then shows the profile picture of a friend the user interacts with regularly above the caption “[Insert friend’s name] will miss you.”
The site makes deactivating an account seem like a huge life decision that amounts to being disconnected in a negative way, but the recent exodus begs reconsideration of whether the benefits of having a Facebook account are worth the risks to one’s privacy, time-management and mental well-being.
Featured image via Google.