Facebook: A social media platform with no shortage of puppy pictures, cooking videos, and privacy scandals.
2018 was described as a "colossally bad year" for Facebook, and it's easy to see why. A series of high-profile data and privacy breaches culminated in a public apology tour to make up for the Cambridge Analytica debacle and congressional testimony from Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook owns a massive piece of the social media market–more than Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat– but how many people trust the site with their personal data these days, and are they less inclined to use it with controversy looming over the site? Research from 2018 shows nearly 3 in 4 Facebook users are making some effort to adjust their presence on the site, including 42 percent who took a break in the past year.
So how many people are really deleting Facebook, and what pushed them over the edge? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 people on the social media giant's trustworthiness, how their life changed after deleting Facebook, and why other people just can't give it up. Let's take a look at their responses.
The Digital Detox
Social media has become a global phenomenon. No matter where you live or how old you are, there's a fairly good chance you've come across social media. While liking and sharing are fundamental to how we interact online, several analyses show social media is still a young man's game in some ways. Compared to 69 percent of adults across the U.S., 86 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are social media users.
Contrary to reports that millennials are "addicted" to social media, surveyed millennials were more likely to delete or deactivate their Facebook accounts than any other generation. Compared to just 1 percent of baby boomers and nearly 8 percent of Gen X users, around 9 percent of millennials took the plunge and purged Facebook from their social life.
Nearly 66 percent of people who removed Facebook from their life didn't want the social media platform to have their personal data. From the way it shares users' data with third-party applications to the amount of insight it gives targeted advertisers, Facebook has faced a fair share of criticism in the last year for its handling of private information.
Another 61 percent were worried about their privacy, followed by too much unnecessary drama (58.2 percent), political arguments (43 percent), and overuse (40.5 percent).
Seeing the Silver Lining
Social media isn't all bad, but research continues to point to negative side effects that users should be aware of. The average person spends two hours every day scrolling through various social media accounts, and for some, it can encourage addictive behavior, promote stress and depression, and make it difficult to sleep.
Of those who made an effort to delete or deactivate their Facebook accounts, not a single respondent reported a negative impact on their happiness. Nearly 41 percent said they were slightly happier since leaving Facebook behind, and almost 46 percent were significantly happier.
Ditching Facebook may also have a positive impact on romantic relationships. The people polled admitted their relationship with their significant other was better since they deleted Facebook. Because of the way we gravitate toward our phones and social media constantly, relationship experts argue that apps like Facebook can make our partners feel devalued and unappreciated.
What makes Facebook purgers so happy? It could be all the free time they now have. The average person spends nearly an hour every day perusing Facebook, equating to more than fourteen days every year. Users deleting Facebook for good could be repurposing that time for more productive tasks. More than half acknowledged they spent more time reading, hanging out with their friends and family, and watching TV. Nearly as many – 47 percent – said they exercised more since deleting their Facebook accounts.
Name Your Price
For some reason, no matter how much drama Facebook attracts or how often we wonder whether the app is listening to our everyday conversations, some people just can't give it up.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a little green incentive to help push us over the edge. When asked how much it would cost to delete Facebook permanently, respondents named their price. Men came in at just $1,129 to quit Facebook for good. The asking price for women was nearly double that at $2,074. Like the older generations who were less likely to delete or deactivate their Facebook accounts preemptively, baby boomers ($1,983) and Gen X users ($1,892) asked for more than millennials ($1,468) to delete Facebook forever.
On the Fence
Many Americans don't trust Facebook, and many people surveyed at least considered doing something about it.
Over 64 percent of men and 59 percent of women considered deleting Facebook, including around 56 percent of baby boomers, nearly 58 percent of Gen Xers, and almost 65 percent of millennials. It might seem like a daunting task, but deleting Facebook has plenty of benefits. Not only will you get more time back in your day, but also your communication skills, time management, motivation, and happiness may increase after a digital detox.
Finding a Use for Facebook
Most people don't trust Facebook, and the physical and emotional benefits of purging it are fairly well-known, which can only mean that if unplugging from Facebook were easy, almost everyone would do it.
So what are holding people back from signing up for the Facebook cleanse? For nearly 2 in 3 people of all ages, the answer was simple: staying in touch. From its convenience to ease of use, there's no denying that social media platforms like Facebook are successful communication devices and help us feel connected to friends and family all around the world.
While millennials were the most eager to get rid of Facebook for good, they were also the first to admit that losing their Facebook images encouraged them to stick around. Millennials were also more likely not to want to miss out on news and use Facebook to log into other online accounts. Only 34 percent of people acknowledged keeping their Facebook accounts active because they enjoyed using the service.
Despite the controversies and doubt surrounding Facebook and its management of users' private and sensitive data, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform. Over 92 percent of baby boomers, more than 88 percent of Gen Xers, and nearly 88 percent of millennials admitted to spending the bulk of their social media hours on Facebook compared to Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit.
Facebook also ranked as respondents' favorite social media platform. While millennials were more inclined to have a strong affinity for Instagram and Reddit, Facebook still won out as their social media platform of choice. While nearly 71 percent of baby boomers and almost 54 percent of Gen Xers ranked Facebook as their favorite social media site, less than 37 percent of millennials said the same.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Even after a monstrously bad year in terms of press and user trust, Facebook remains the undisputed king (or queen) of social media. Even though most people thought about deactivating their Facebook accounts, staying connected to family and friends was the biggest reason they stayed plugged in.
Just because Facebook earned the top slot among the most used and preferred social media platforms doesn't mean its position is guaranteed forever, though. Millennials were the most likely generation to purge Facebook and do so as a result of privacy concerns. Millennials also had the least affection for Facebook, even if it still was their favorite social media platform. Considering younger generations are often the heaviest social media users, this trend among millennials could spell an uneasy road ahead if Facebook doesn't repair the damage it caused in 2018.
We collected survey responses from 1,012 people who have ever had a Facebook account. 47.8 percent of our participants were men, and 52.2 percent were women. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 83 with a mean of 36.4 and a standard deviation of 11.2. Anyone who had never had a Facebook account was disqualified. Outliers were excluded from the analysis. We used Facebook's Q4 earnings report to find out Facebook's average revenue per user and its total number of monthly active users. We used these numbers, along with our data, to calculate how many monthly active users Facebook would have if no one deleted their Facebook account. We simply multiplied Facebook's average revenue per user by the number of estimated additional monthly active users Facebook would have to estimate the revenue it could have made.
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