Behind the “Unlikes:” Understanding Why People Quit Facebook

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Nearly three-quarters of American adults use social media, so quitting Facebook — committing “virtual identity suicide” — isn’t easy. So why are more people considering it?

Researchers surveyed 310 people who opted out of Facebook by participating in the (online!) QuitFacebookDay.com campaign begun by users angry over the company’s privacy policies. The changes included a service that allowed people to sign their friends up to groups without their permission.  Since the May 31, 2010, quit date, 40,633 people have closed their Facebook accounts.

Intrigued by what motivated the quitters to go cold turkey on social media, the scientists, from the University of Vienna in Austria, compared them to 321 people who chose to stay.

Virtual suicide seemed to be an overwhelmingly male phenomenon— men made up a full 72% of those who opted out.  Quitters were also generally older than those who stayed, with an average age of 31. Among those who stayed, 71% were women, with an average age of 24.

MOREHow To Disappear From Facebook and Twitter

Not surprisingly, nearly half of the dropouts said they left because of fears about privacy and ethical concerns about how their personal data would be used.  Many did not want their private information sold to advertisers or were worried about unauthorized disclosures to people they didn’t know. (Prior studies have found that older people tend to pay more attention to privacy issues than younger users, a trend that was supported by this data.)

“Given high profile stories such as WikiLeaks and the recent NSA surveillance reports, individual citizens are becoming increasingly more wary of cyber-related privacy concerns,” said Brenda Wiederhold, editor of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, which published the study, in a statement.

The rest of the quitters left for a variety of reasons, with 14% saying they were dissatisfied with the site’s design and time-wasting features and 13% citing issues with Facebook “friendships,” such as superficiality or unwanted social pressure. Other analyses of social media users found that the relentless stream of perfectly curated baby pictures and happy social events to which you were not invited— coupled with a typical lack of openness about less wonderful moments — can lower self esteem, increase depression and afflict people with a terrible fear of missing out, an experience so common it’s earned an acronym — FOMO.

MORE:  Tips For Moderating Addictive Internet Use

But 6% of Facebook quitters left because they feared they were becoming addicted to the site— and overall, the quitters had a higher score on symptoms of internet addiction than did those who chose to continue.

The study did not reveal, however, how many quitters “relapsed,” rejoining the site later.

31 comments
RJReynolds
RJReynolds

Sharing your life's story publicly on the internet is like letting the genie out of the bottle. Once you make it public you can't make it private again.

RJReynolds
RJReynolds

I left FB because when I won sole custody of my son back in 2012, his mother ( my ex) would create fake guy profiles and attempt to befriend me and stalk me online. I heard of cyber stalking before but never thought that I would ever experience the recieving end of it myself. Needless to say, this, along with having a bunch of trolling high school friends that I increasingly cared less and less about and the gossipping amongst "friends" reallyt turned me off from FB and social media as a whole. I closed my account late last year and havent looked back since. I also don't understand why alot of people (mostly insecure women) feel the need to post pictures of their intimate moments with their kids on their wall and on their page. Why exploit your kids and put them out there like that? I'm scared once my son is old enough to do the 'social networking' thing that he'll exploit himself unknowingly and thing that it's "cool" to post your life's story on the internet.   smh

marshall.staxx
marshall.staxx

I joined Facebook to see what the hype was about. I quit because to me Facebook is just boring and pointless. 

Maybe I'm too old and uncool, but I have honestly never understood its appeal. 

DeborahHamlien
DeborahHamlien

So right you are Rudy, many sociopaths, psychopaths troll FB, much I have seen, hacked many times by psycho ex, complained to FB, account then frozen, asked for ID, address as well, ex then sent gay community, stalked for weeks, FB  minds our business, watched, monitored, picture on my wall talked to me one day, freaky it was, sociopaths run that social media, YIKES... 

rudy59
rudy59

I'm just freaking bored with it, that's all.  I've found out that everyone has a fb account including serial killers, people who kill their spouse & then have the nerve to put it online, child molesters, sociopath's, you name it & they're on it.  I like to be unique & after awhile things get boring.  My teenage son never goes on it anymore, he's always on his Xbox & Skype or on his phone playing his apps.  My 27yr. old doesn't have time with college & working.  I'm either busy taking care of my house, my animals & working 2 jobs.  I just don't understand how anyone has time to be on their everyday that's all.

JeanDepalis
JeanDepalis

There is an alternative: masspal.com. Masspal is the only social medial that connects people with their-minded Pals. 

novelist999
novelist999

The thing that hurt me most about FB was the realization of how very little people care. I've found that even family and old friends have been unsupportive through some major life events, good and bad.  Even those who offer initial support never follow up to see how things are going. Family didn't bother to contact me offline after I had major surgery.  Many pretended not to see those posts--just like they pretended not to see the post where I announced the publication of my novel.  Such things have made me resentful of many of my FB friends.

I would love to delete my account, but I want to stay in touch with the FB friends that I know only online who share similar  interests.

Someone likened FB to the old forums in the early days of the net. It's nothing like that.  The old forums were group specific, whereas everyone we know is on FB, including Grandma, colleagues, and a class mate from first grade.  And it's very uncomfortable to have such diverse groups of people watching everything.  It makes us all tongue-tied except for the most mundane facets of our lives, because we don't want to share everything with everyone. 

auronlu
auronlu

Quit Facebook in May 2010... wasn't worth the ever-increasing privacy breaches. (And then I quit AGAIN, after finding out the hard way that Facebook lied about deleting my account -- such fun when a Nigerian hacker got in and tried to scam my friends.) It took extra work, back then, but I've been well and truly deleted from Facebook for 3 years.

I don't know why you think that Facebook = social media, however.

Some of us have been on the net since the 80s. We used forums in the 90s. In the late 90s, websites like Livejournal sprang up that let one post under a username and easily designate any post as public or locked to a hand-picked list of friends. (One could have different lists, and thus share different things with different people). I believe Facebook finally implemented something like this after I left, but they're still letting too much be shared, and they keep the control -- we don't.

Livejournal has gotten to be a bit of a mess since it was bought out, but there are other sites like it. My friends and I -- some friends going back 20 years -- still use these sites. Yes, a determined hacker could probably break in. But these sites allow us to share our thoughts, our interests, and our lives exactly as much as we want, and only with those we want. I don't have to specify where I live. I don't have to put up a profile photo for stalkers. People who have been stalked can keep safe behind a pseudonym where creepy exes -- or their creepy ex's lawyer -- cannot dig up dirt in them or stalk them. People who are often bullied can communicate in a protected space (there are ways to block anyone who's not being nice, or you can hand-pick who is allowed to comment in your space). 

We refuse to give up our privacy or give into Zuck's exploitation of our personal lives. We reserve the right to use the internet to communicate with those who share our interests, without having to let our fellow birdwatcher know about our kids, our diets, or our employment -- and vice versa. It is still possible in the online world to maintain different filters, and share different things, with different acquaintances, friends, relatives and associates. You just can't do it easily on the more johnny-come-lately social media sites that seem determined to convince people it's not an option, even though it was 15 years ago.

呵呵
呵呵

Funny, what is facebook?? Have your QQ weibo and you will never quit it.

okayfine
okayfine

I quit Facebook when I realized that it's stupid. Just incredibly stupid. If I wanted to keep in touch with these people, I would, and they with me. Do I really care about 90% of the things people post? Why should anyone? They got a dog. They went to a party. Their kid graduated from 1st grade. Their kid graduated from anything. I work in the theatre & found people were using it to promote their shows. Awesome: tell me when you see me.  I noticed that the people who engage in actual conversations on Facebook are the same people who engage in actual conversations ... you know: IN PERSON. They talk, they email, they text. Why add Facebook to it? I never read the novellas people send in their holiday cards for the same reason: if we were close enough that I ought to care, you would have kept me up-to-date as the months passed.

KrondarGemstone
KrondarGemstone

Quit facebook over a year ago, never been happier. Nothing was funnier than right before hitting the delete button, Facebook popped up something like "But these people will miss you!" and it just showed a bunch of links to business pages.

PossumPus
PossumPus

Many of us thought that the old rules on Ebay still applied as well.  Bid with privacy. Personal info only revealed with winning auction and then by special request. Now, the data is mined, and when you bid on a car or many other items, all of  your information is visible and stored in their databases.   Even though it's been years since buying anything on Ebay, I thought that basic thought prevailed.  I bid on a car. Suddenly, I'm notified that 7 companies have pulled my credit report, I started getting phone calls and emails.  One even asking if I wanted to put the deposit for the car onto my credit card on file with Ebay.  Alias Only

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

Africa for Africans, Asia for Asians, White countries for EVERYONE!!! It is said there is a racism problem. It is said that this racism problem will be solved when the third world pours into ALL White countries and ONLY into White countries. And that the Whites have to interbreed with all the Non-whites. According to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, this is genocide. Stop White Genocide. Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-white.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKDeyuM0-Og

himichellerocketmail
himichellerocketmail

Also because of the selective banning, blocking and censorship that facebook is doing to those with anti-obama, anti-amnesty to illegal immigrants, conservative or other than liberal view points.  And yes this is being done (selective discrimination) consistently on facebook....anything opposing Mark Zuckerberg's pet projects like cheap foreign labor, amnesty to illegal immigrants, gun bans, etc., that has nothing to do with the marketing of fb.  It's ridiculous!

TexXxas_Made
TexXxas_Made

Facebook should limit the amount of baby pictures you can post. Also your "status" should have to be approved...for example if you put "Going jogging" then afterward you try to post "back from jogging"...then you should be denied that post, and or found and stoned to death as punishment, JS. 

AlexCurtis
AlexCurtis

Seriously? Facebook has a reported 1.1 billion users, and yet you wasted space and space on a 'study' that involves a mere 300 individuals?   I'm betting your book sucks, too. 

komkus
komkus

Zurker is the answer to Facebook. 

AaronBrown
AaronBrown

What advertising genius/Paid shill at Time Decided it was a good idea to put ads on top of the text that can't be removed, so you can't read the Entire story on any mobile device? No doubt this creep will be editor-in-chief by the end of the week. This is why I don't read Time, this is why nobody reads it anymore, this crap and the garbage propaganda they continually publish For their parent company.

I look forward eagerly to your final dissolutionment

MichaelSmith6
MichaelSmith6

41,000 people may have quit but a lot more have joined!! BTW I got here from a link in Facebook. 

AndrewK777
AndrewK777

You can never "quit" facebook. You might go inactive, but all of your data is still there. If you ever rejoin, it will take you right back to where you left off.

chrisp114
chrisp114

Yes, people are quitting because of privacy concerns. I'm also quitting google. These companies are in the ad business, and as a result they will never be able to respect my privacy. This is why I use sites like Ravetree, DuckDuckGo, HushMail, etc. We should all help promote sites like these since they actually respect user privacy.

Fed_Up1
Fed_Up1

@himichellerocketmail Yeah, but the conservative values of naked women & anti-non-white bigotry are alive & well. You can't get exploitative pictures of women deleted, you can't lose your account for being a gay-basher or antisemite, but you sure can get nailed if you try to promote breastfeeding!

miakotamatsue
miakotamatsue

@AlexCurtis 

Out of that 1.1 billion users, 1 billion users are spammers, people with multiple accounts, and dead accounts.  

jacquelinenicole67
jacquelinenicole67

You' know that you are on Time's site complaining about not being able to read a Time article, while in the same breath saying you and everyone else (also here reading your comment, aka your audience) doesn't read Time? As far as the advertising goes though, our government is run by ppl who fund them, our companies by their advertisers, and, in many ways, too many of us allow those who pay us to make our decisions. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. . Food for thought.

komkus
komkus

@chrisp114  Chris I suggest you try the upcoming crowd funded social network Zurker. It's driven by democracy, guarantees freedom of speech and 100% privacy.  Worth checking it out!  

Sergio
Sergio

@chrisp114 Didn't know about these options !! (Going to check them out). Thanks Chris !!