Why the exodus from Facebook?
Any opinions expressed are the author’s own.
According to the Inside Facebook data service, Facebook lost about 6 million users in the U.S. in May (a claim the company disputes), dropping from 155.2 million to 149.4 million. That’s the first time U.S. numbers have dropped in more than a year.
Why the exodus from the world’s most popular social networking platform? While Daniel Sieberg, author of The Digital Diet, says it’s due to any number of reasons – from “Facebook Fatigue” to privacy issues to our inability to get the same benefits or rewards that we initially did when we first signed on – here are some of more personal, intimate reasons, according to those who have pulled the plug:
Don’t like what we’re seeing
Ashley Hebert, 26, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, had seen one too many photos of her ex-boyfriend – whom she was hoping to get back together with – looking all too pleased with his new girlfriend. Painful as it was, she couldn’t stop looking and was even having her friends spy on her behalf. “I had to get off Facebook to stay sane.”
Fearful of what we’re becoming
“I found myself looking at photographs from people I hadn’t been in touch with for 15 years, and didn’t particularly even care about,” says Faye Cook, a 65-year-old educational consultant in New York City. “I was becoming a bit of a snoop and in the end I thought, ‘Is nothing sacred anymore?’ It just didn’t seem right.”
Russ Maines, a 44-year-old attorney from Ithaca, NY, says he was becoming too preoccupied with what his Facebook friends were up to. What was everyone cooking for dinner? Who stubbed their toe? Whose boss yelled at them? Any weekend plans? He made sure everyone was aware of what he was up to as well. “Facebook wasn’t enhancing my life; it was detracting from it and causing a lot of anxiety and stress,” says Maines, who quit last October. “I’ve been much happier – and more relaxed – without it.”
Too many “fake” relationships
Michelle Loewen, 39, says that Facebook was pulling her away from “real” relationships. So just four months ago, she stopped communicating – as her virtual self – via posts and returned to communicating the old-fashioned way. “I pick up the phone now and make an effort to get in touch with those who matter most, like my dad and my siblings. It’s much more fulfilling than communicating – digitally – with those I haven’t seen since elementary school.” Jimmy Goines, 42, of Lexington, Kentucky echoes that sentiment. “Facebook makes you become so desocialized face to face.” He quit in January and has not looked back. “That’s how I know I made the right decision to get off.”
Tired of managing reputation
Just after 36-year-old Ellen Dierberg’s divorce was finalized about a year and a half ago, she joined Facebook thinking it would be a good way to get her social life back on track. But she soon found herself photographed – and tagged – at just about everything she went to, from concerts to barbecues. “I started dating someone who liked to take a lot of pictures and they were accumulating on my wall,” says Dierberg, of St. Louis, Mo. “Everyone was saying, ‘I saw you and Bob at this event or that party,’ and that’s when I knew I was going to have to do a better job managing my reputation.”
The final straw: when someone posted and tagged a picture of Dierberg and a local politician on her wall. “People started contacting me, asking about him. He ‘recommended’ I take it down.” She did and then quickly deactivated. “Facebook wore me out.”
Sick of all the bragging
Gerry Graf’s Facebook buddies had been to Paris, London, Madrid – and back – 100 times over. Graf, 44, was so jealous that in the summer of 2010, he decided to leave his seemingly dull, boring life as a freelancer behind and travel the world himself. But not literally. “I grabbed some Flickr photos online and used the snapshots to make it look like I’d been to Sarajevo, Helsinki, an island off of Italy, Iraq and then to Ape City.”
His Facebook buddies were impressed. “Everyone was commenting that I had the ‘coolest’ job ever,” says Graf, who has since founded Barton F. Graf, an advertising agency based in New York City, “I think I got 30 comments. It was so much fun poking fun and getting even.”
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City. Gibbons has written for Inc., SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, cnbc.com, and the New York Times. Today, her writing appears in Real Simple and on AOL’s personal finance site, Walletpop.com. Gibbons is also a Financial Analyst for MSNBC. Previously, she was a financial contributor with CBS The Early Show, and worked as a correspondent for CNBC’s High Net Worth.