Facebook made a startling revelation today: for the first time ever, it lost a million users in the US and Canada in Q4 2017, bringing its North American base down to 184 million.
That’s not a huge number in the grand scheme of things – and heck, Facebook even saw an increase in daily user audience by 32 million last quarter – but it indicates that people are actively leaving the social network and freeing themselves from its shackles to lead a better life.
Why are people quitting Facebook? The rise of fake news, meddling by Russian agencies, and plenty of content in your feed that you don’t remember subscribing to may all be to blame.
The drop in users could also help explain Facebook’s recent moves to fix its machinery – it’s promised to surface more content from your contacts instead of from brands and publishers, it’s trying to crowdsource help to identify trusted media outlets, it’s working to bring you more local news so you’re better connected to your community, it’s blocking cryptocurrency ads that may be misleading, and it says that it’s showing fewer viral videos, which has caused time spent on the site to drop by 50 million hours a day – all in an effort to make people’s time spent on the social network more meaningful.
In keeping an eye on these developments, while also becoming acutely aware of my app addiction over the past several months, I’ve been trying to break away from services like Facebook that have become less valuable to me, and more of a time suck. I haven’t yet been able to kick the habit: the site’s Events section is arguably the best resource for finding things to do, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m still interested in discovering whether my notifications include comments or photos from friends that I’d care to check out.
And it’s not just a matter of choosing to distance yourself from Facebook, because the network doesn’t make it easy: try abstaining for a few days or weeks, and the company will fill your inbox with messages inviting you to come back and check out what’s going on with your pals, and even with alerts from its security customer service department, asking if you’ve been having help logging in.
So, to those one million Americans who’ve moved away from Facebook: I salute you for breaking free and moving on with your life. I may not able to join your cause while I’m still gainfully employed here at TNW because it’s part of my job to keep an eye on our social channels, but I now have another challenge to add to my personal list for my upcoming sabbatical: reducing Facebook’s monthly active user base by one will require me to avoid logging in for 30 days, and that’s exactly the amount of time I’ll have on my break.
To those who are similarly inspired to kick the habit: clearly, it can be done. Good luck, and godspeed.