A Pew Study published today suggests up to three-quarters of Americans have taken steps to either tighten their Facebook security or distance themselves from the site entirely — both reflections of a certain loss of naivety in the site’s audience.
According to the study, 74 percent of users have either adjusted their privacy settings, taken an extended break from the site, or outright deleted the app from their phones — a full 24 percent of the latter. All of the participants have taken these actions over the last year.
Users didn’t say exactly why they’d taken these steps, but the numbers do dovetail with the increasing scrutiny Facebook has been under over its data privacy policies and the way its treats its users. At the same time this Pew Study was published, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was testifying before Congress on foreign interference in American politics vis a vis Facebook.
I’d be curious to find out how many of the people who changed their privacy settings were looking at them for the first time. Given all the revelations about Facebook in the last year, both regarding the data it collects and the people who are allowed to use it, it wouldn’t be a surprise if many users were motivated to secure information they’d previously never given much thought to.
Facebook has been subject to a prolonged “DeleteFacebook” campaign since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke earlier this year, and it didn’t appear to have made an actual dent in Facebook’s numbers — at least, not at the time. But if the study is suggestive, it means the movement away from Facebook has been less a one-time gush and more of a steady trickle. While deleting the app is not the same as deleting your Facebook account, but it comes out to the same thing: That person is no longer on Facebook regularly.
As for who’s getting rid of Facebook, the study suggests its mostly young people — over 44 percent of those asked between the ages of 18 and 29 said they’d deleted the app. This goes hand in hand with the diminishing number of teens who claim to use the platform. Whether that means teens and young adults are more aware of the downsides of using the social network, or whether this is just a side effect of Facebook losing cred among the Snapchat/Instagram generation, it’s hard to say.
Another Pew study suggests Facebook is just downright obscure for some users. Over half of adults surveyed by Pew said they didn’t have a clear understanding of how the News Feed works, and the vast majority said they believed users had “a little” or “no” control over what appears there.
Now that a growing number of users perceive Facebook as something potentially harmful and that they can neither control nor benefit from its information thoroughfare, then it’s probably not a surprise to see so many of them deleting it.