Over the past ten years, Facebook has grown to become the world's main social network.
All your friends are there, all those people you "kind of" know are there, and all those people you've only added because you know their names are there.
But without being condescending, Facebook is, at its best, a fantastic platform to bring people together. No wonder it has become an “Online ID” of sorts, both figuratively and literally. Many third-party services (like Spotify) let you log in with your Facebook account - so you don’t need to create any other accounts as long as you have Facebook.
When you meet new people and they want to talk to you again, they will ask:
“What’s your Facebook?”
Because Facebook has everything you’d expect from a social network, along with tools for creating business pages, promoting yourself, and there’s still more to come. So you can talk to friends and share things you like, but also create a page and use it for work, all in one place. It’s great.
Why are people leaving?
The latest discovery to raise serious concerns was the Cambridge Analytics scandal, in which a consulting firm harvested personal data from over 50 million Facebook users in secret during their work on the 2016 Trump election campaign — apparently unbeknownst to Facebook and without user consent.
So either Facebook was ignorant of what was happening, or they let it happen — we can't tell which is worse.
Users were rightfully outraged and soon the hashtag #DeleteFacebook was trending on Twitter (ironically, another social network that uses targeted advertising).
But there's another reason people are leaving Facebook:
Many users have stated they are a lot happier without Facebook.
With a growing concern over smartphone and app addiction, leading to companies such as Light to design a phone that doesn’t beg for your attention every five minutes, it’s no surprise the trend caught on.
Over the past week, the number of searches for "delete facebook" on Google grew like crazy. You can now find step-by-step guides on how to delete your Facebook account. You can find guides on how to save your data and photos from your account before deleting it. Elon Musk* -- one of the world's most prolific entrepreneurs -- has deleted the Facebook pages for his two biggest companies. Even Playboy magazine suspended their Facebook accounts following a statement.
Facebook's native "delete account" page is now the first search result you get.
But the question still stands:
What if you deleted Facebook today?
Would it accomplish anything?
Is it worth all the hate?
Let’s find out.
It’s not easy giving up an addiction
As I'm sure you know, Facebook was designed to be highly addictive.
And I do mean DESIGNED - none of it is accidental.
Even if you don’t actively use it for work or self-promotion, they keep trying to draw you in with notifications saying a friend posted something, or “you might know these people”, or an event is happening near you, and so on…
A bunch of things you don’t really care for in an attempt to increase user engagement. And unfortunately, it works.
For example, these are some elements of Facebook’s design that makes it satisfying (and addictive) to use:
- The news feed is endless — it will load forever as long as you're scrolling down;
- New videos start automatically so you feel compelled to keep watching;
- Likewise, the new videos are always similar to the last one you saw, so you’re more inclined to like it;
- Red is the universal alert color — hence why the number of unread notifications in red begs to be cleared quickly and immediately;
- Reacting to posts is snappy and satisfying with cute visual and sound feedback;
- Also, reacting to posts takes no creative effort, so you're compelled to do it even if you have nothing to say;
- When you click to comment on a post, your profile image already appears beside your unwritten comment — like you’re entitled to write it;
- Both on mobile and desktop, every main function is conveniently one click away — you never have to leave the news feed to reply to messages and comments.
To be clear, none of these are inherently evil. Being such a huge network, it’s natural the developers would work towards making their platform easier and more satisfying to use. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But think about it:
How often do you check on Facebook each day, whether at work or at home? How often do you get notification pop-ups, even though they don’t interest you, or have nothing to do with you?
How often do you find yourself scrolling down for minutes upon minutes, even though you find nothing that new or interesting?
How often do you go on Facebook simply because you’re bored?
Basically, you don’t need it as much as you think you do.
I’m guilty of opening Facebook for no reason just as much as anyone, usually because I’m bored…
And we dread being bored. More than anything else. Since we can carry smartphones in our pockets, being bored is something we simply cannot accept, because something is always happening, and we need it to happen to us.
So whenever we start feeling bored, we open Facebook (or any other social media, for that matter) and scroll and scroll and scroll… looking for that something, whatever it may be. After all, something is always happening there.
It’s not easy giving up your online ID
The other problem of giving up your account is how Facebook is embedded into everything - even our culture:
Most people assume you have a Facebook account as soon as they meet you.
According to almost everyone, your business needs a Facebook page, and people might get disappointed if they can’t find you there.
“What? He/she doesn’t have a Facebook page?!”
By giving that up, you also lose the conveniences - and, admittedly - the advantages that come with the account.
Good luck trying to explain everyone you meet why you’re not on Facebook. It’s generally frowned upon.
Hating on Facebook is not the answer
By now it might seem like I hate Facebook.
And neither should you.
They make money selling ads — of course, they want you to spend as much of your time as possible on their app. I can’t blame them if their design choices work.
And they’re certainly not the only ones doing it.
Literally millions of other apps keep finding new ways to make you think they’re essential, that you need them, that they’re good for you - all of them competing for your attention. The more they can get you sucked in, the better. And if they get you to spend money on them: mission accomplished.
If you were to hate on Facebook because of their tactics, you might as well hate on the entire App Store.
All of these apps play to our basic pleasures: we like having something to do. We like to be up-to-date. We like to know what the new thing is.
We like when the app goes bleep-bloop.
But once again, this is not necessarily an evil thing to do. They’re just trying to make their living, and if they can exploit your weaknesses, they will.
It’s up to you to say enough is enough.
So, what if I want to quit?
If you want to make a statement against Facebook because they let your personal information be taken and used by others… you might as well.
But go ahead and also quit Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. These are all owned by Facebook, and they also have your data, which is another reason why quitting is nearly impossible.
If that’s a little too much to handle, or you’re not interested in quitting Facebook right now, you can instead fight Facebook in other ways and make a similar statement.
However, if you want to quit Facebook because it’s addicting and you feel like it consumes too much of your time, try this:
Delete the app from your phone.
It takes about five seconds and it instantly makes a huge difference — I’ve done that myself.
Try that for a few days. Avoid reaching for the phone or opening Facebook at all during work hours. This will help you notice how much you think you need it, but you don’t.
But if you notice you’re actually addicted, Facebook isn’t your only problem - this kind of addiction is real and serious, being directly linked to other mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. If that’s the case, talk to a medical professional.
Then there are smartphone apps that help you treat smartphone addiction, but that’s a little too ironic for my taste…
Facebook is getting a lot of flack, and rightfully so - we need more than their word to know our data won’t be mined and used again. People leaving as a statement - even major companies and celebrities - is bold and necessary. But parallel to that, a lot of people left Facebook simply because it made them happier.
In this mess, what do you do?
I can’t answer for you, but I can answer for myself:
I have deleted the Facebook app from my phone and deactivated desktop notifications. I only ever use Facebook for work, and by reflecting on how I spent my personal time there, I realized most of it was wasted. I feel better now.
However, I have not deleted my Facebook account. I stand by all the criticism I’ve written, but to me, Facebook has many advantages and conveniences I don’t want to give up just yet. What I can do, for now, is watch closely what they’re doing and demand, like everyone, that my personal information they have stored is secured. If nothing changes, then I will too consider leaving Facebook.
But for now, I’m still there.
*Elon Musk has had gripes with Mark Zuckerberg before, and that’s made clear if you read his twitter replies - when asked by a user if he would join the movement against Facebook, he replied: “What’s Facebook?” On the following tweets, he was dared to delete the page for SpaceX from Facebook, and he replied: “I didn’t realize there was one. Will do.” The full thread can be read here. I’m pointing this out because I suspected Musk’s intention had little to do with the #DeleteFacebook movement, and he was simply ceasing the opportunity to poke at Zuckerberg. On March 24th, he more or less confirmed this suspicion, saying: “It’s not a political statement and I didn’t do this because someone dared me to do it. Just don’t like Facebook. Gives me the willies. Sorry.” Regardless, the timing and the fact he’s an influencer got the movement a lot of steam.