We all have one or two friends who have used Facebook and left the site. Do those people share some fundamental trait?
Not according to a new study from Cornell University, which found various reasons for leaving Facebook and a range of practices that allow users to engage with the social network to greater or lesser degrees.
“One participant described redirecting all email from Facebook to an email address that he never checked. Others installed browser plugins that blocked them from visiting the site,” said Eric Baumer, a postdoctoral associate in communication and the study’s lead author.
Based on 410 online survey responses, the study suggests that about a third of U.S. Facebook temporarily deactivate their accounts and one in 10 leaves the site permanently. One in five survey respondents had never had a Facebook account.
More than a quarter of Facebook users had seriously considered deactivating or deleting their account.
Although “refusing Facebook excludes me from social interaction in a way that refusing few other technologies would,” the study found “numerous complex and interrelated motivations and justifications” for not using the site.
Privacy was the most dominant concern, cited by more than a quarter of respondents who left or considered leaving Facebook. Yet, users described different aspects of privacy, such as having friends be able to look through their activities from years past.
While only some of those who cited privacy faulted the company’s handling of personal information, a fifth specifically cited data misuse as their reason for leaving or considering leaving the social network.
A fifth said Facebook interfered with their productivity.
Of those who temporarily left the site, nearly 40 percent said they were “very happy” with the decision. More than three-quarters of those who permanently deleted their accounts said they were “very happy.” Less than 5 percent of both groups said they were “very unhappy” with the choice.