On December 2016 I decided to quit Facebook. Yes, I permanently deleted my account and I’ve never been happier.
It’s been about 9 months now since I last scrolled through a wall of activity to read the newest posts and clicked on the latest vacation photos of a “FB” friend.
The Promise of Connection
Like many of you, I joined Facebook so that I can connect with family and friends. Isn’t that the mission of the world’s leading social networking site?
As of August 2017, Facebook has over 2 billion active users (Statista 2017). That’s about 27% of the world’s population considering that there are currently about 7.4 billion people in the world (Census Bureau 2017).
I’ve lived in about four countries so far and it was exciting to have one place to go to where I can (surely) find most of my family and friends from all over the world. Facebook’s promise of connections was too tempting to pass up.
The Quality of the Connection is Not Guaranteed
As I continue to use Facebook, I realized that making the connections was not enough. I eventually started questioning the quality of the connections and communication that I was making. I thought that I would be able to nurture my strong ties (close relationships) with my family and friends. But this is not how Facebook worked for me.
This experience of poor quality communication is supported by a study done by Davies and co-workers (2016). The study showed that promoting weak ties (acquaintances) is the most productive way (for Facebook) to share information. Promoting weak ties also ensures that people feels more connected. More importantly, their study showed that Facebook use reduces the quality of communication between people.
Passive Use and Negative Thoughts
In my experience, Facebook was not the right medium to use to strengthen ties and build authentic relationships. It was hard to confide and share my deepest thoughts and feeling in this social network platform.
Instead of talking to my family or catching up with long lost friends, I found myself spending many hours scrolling through and meticulously reading each update on my wall. I became more familiar with what my friends ate during the day than with what really mattered to them.
So I became what you would call a passive user. I was on Facebook often but I did not engage. I took information but I seldom gave information back.
Frost and Rickwood (2017) analyzed 65 studies spanning 12 years on the relationship between Facebook use and mental health outcomes. They found that there is a trend in studies showing that passive Facebook use predicts poorer mental health. According to this study:
There seems a plausible link between passive use and negative self-evaluations, such that perusing the photos, comments, and activity of other users, rather than actively engaging with them, cultivates a climate for ruminative behaviors.
Essentially, if you’re a passive Facebook user, you’re more likely to think negatively of yourself.
Why Quitting Facebook Would be Good For You
So, Facebook and I didn’t seem to be a match made in heaven. After quitting, these are the things that happened to me and these would happen to you too:
You’ll have more time in your hands.
Facebook users spend on average 50 minutes daily on the social networking site (Stewart 2016). This is evidence that Facebook is such a time suck! If you’re going to spend over 300 hours on an activity per year, it better be worth it.
Stewart (2016) also reported that according to the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you compare the amount of time you spend on Facebook to that of other activities:
It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes). It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours).
Imagine the number of books you could have read or how physically fit you could be if you can use Facebook time to exercise.
Your path to living a simpler life.
One of my brothers once told me that if I’m ever concerned with Facebook privacy, I could always control the privacy settings.
But I think the problem lies with privacy literacy. We all know that the privacy settings are there but not all of us are very knowledgeable on it.
So how do we familiarize ourselves with the ins and outs of Facebook privacy settings?
Bartsch and Dienlin (2016) found in their study that the more time you spend in changing privacy settings, the more privacy literate you will be. Ok, that’s just common sense right there. But it’s a problem if you don’t invest the time needed to be an expert in Facebook privacy settings.
There are many other things to consider when using Facebook. You also have to worry about the following:
- Risk of social media fatigue due to information overload (Bright et al. 2015). You process the information that Facebook gives you and it’s been thought that your ability as a human being to process this information is limited. The vast amounts of information that you receive when using Facebook could lead to information overload and social media fatigue.
- Fake news has recently been a hot topic and something that you have to be cautious about. According to a survey done by Pew Research Center [http://www.pewresearch.org] (Barthel et al. 2016), about 23% of Americans surveyed says that they have shared fake news at some point in the past.
Add to these other complications such as Facebook addiction and depression (Frost and Rickwood 2017) to name a few, that’s a lot of things to consider. Life is complex already so why make it more difficult?
It’s Time for You to Reconsider
Just like anything in life, if the disadvantages start outweighing the benefits, it’s probably time to reassess. If you’re starting to question if Facebook still works for you, then it’s time to reconsider your participation.
Peace for the Moment
For now, I’m ok picking up the phone or sending a direct email to connect with family and friends who live far away. I’ve noticed that I even talk more to them now that I’m not on Facebook anymore. I am certain that temptations to rejoin will come again. Let me enjoy the peace for the moment.
I’ve gone back a bit to my roots here in this blog post. Instead of just writing about my personal opinions, I also added some academic evidence. Let me know if you like this and I’ll do them more for future blog posts.
Bartsch, Miriam and Dienlin, Tobias. “Control your Facebook: An analysis of online privacy literacy.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 56, 2016, pp. 147-154.
Barthel, Michael, Mitchell, Amy, Holcomb, Jesse. “Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion.” Pew Research Center, 15 Dec. 2017, www.journalism.org/2016/12/15/many-americans-believe-fake-news-is-sowing-confusion/#fn-59275-1.
Bright, Laura F., Kleiser, Susan Bardi, Grau, Stacy Landreth. “Too much Facebook? An exploratory examination of social media fatigue.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 44, 2015, pp. 148–155.
Davies, Megan, et al. “A systems approach to understanding the effect of Facebook use on the quality of interpersonal communication.” Technology in Society, vol. 44, 2016, pp. 55-65.
Frost, Rachel A. and Rickwood, Debra L. “A systematic review of the mental health outcomes associated with Facebook use.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 76, 2017, pp. 576-600.
“Most Famous Social Network Sites Worldwide as of August 2017, Ranked by Number of Active Users (In Millions)” Statista, 1 Sep. 2017, www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-numb”er-of-users/
Stewart, James B. “Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More” The New York Times, 5 May. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/05/06/business/facebook-bends-the-rules-of-audience-engagement-to-its-advantage.html?mcubz=3.
“World Population Clock” Census Bureau, 2 Sep. 2017, www.census.gov/population/international.