Americans Are Unfriending Facebook

Most of us can agree that social media has it’s uses. We need LinkedIn for work, especially if you’re a freelancer like me. We get our current events and breaking news from Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are like junk food without the calories, and nothing helps organize a Book Club menu or Bridal Shower like Pinterest.

But Facebook? Do we even need Facebook anymore? Is anyone out there? Bueller? Bueller?

According to Pew Research Center,  a whopping 42% percent of American adults report they’ve taken a break from Facebook and not checked in for weeks at a time. Another 26% have gone so far as to delete the app off their smartphones.

So what’s the deal? Why are so many walking away? First off, many cite the volume of fake news and it’s fall out exposed during the 2016 presidential election as a primary reason. An article published in the January 2019 issue of Science Advances found that Facebook users aged 65 years and older shared seven times as many fake news stories during the 2016 presidential election than did younger users. Hand in hand with that is the belief that many are tired of the endless barrage of political rhetoric in their newsfeed.

Speaking of barrages, the never-ending notifications for birthdays, friend-a-versaries, suggestions for people you might want to become friends etc. are causing fatigue among users. At a certain point, it’s just too much, and when you factor in the psychological impact of all the “living my best life” photos and statuses, it’s led to social media burnout and depression. Individuals who spend a lot of time looking at other’s seemingly perfect lives report feelings of discontent and unhappiness with their own lives. A platform that was meant to draw us together is instead leaving us feeling left out and disconnected. It has even been linked to unhappiness and discontent within relationships.

Privacy became a serious concern among users when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last year.  The New York Times reported that in 2014 contractors and employees of Cambridge Analytica, saw the opportunity to sell psychological profiles of the American voting public to political campaigns, and subsequently used their access to the private Facebook data of tens of millions of Facebook accounts. It was the biggest known leak in the history of Facebook. Users left the platform in droves, and few of those who left have been lured back. It also led users to become more aware of Facebook’s use of targeted advertising, another element that left users feeling spied upon.

But, one of the biggest reasons Facebook is becoming less popular is the same reason that clothing, TV shows, and food trends fade. If parents are “into it,” kids aren’t. In other words, since the majority of Facebook accounts belong to users aged 25-34 and 35 – 44, younger users are turning to platforms like Snapchat where the old folks can’t spy on them. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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