Half of Facebook-quitters leave over privacy concerns

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy

Exit. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.Facebook, which boasts over a billion users, is by far and away the largest social network in the world. In fact, many of us would be hard pressed to name any of our own contacts who are not already registered.

Lately, however, there's been a trend for people to disconnect from the network. Specialised sites such as The Suicide Machine and Seppukoo (both now unavailable due to issues with the social giant) made it easy for users to delete their content and contacts before having a new and inaccessible password set on their behalf in order to block their return.

So why are people committing "virtual identity suicide"?

University psychologist Stefan Stieger, Ph.D, and his fellow researchers from the University of Vienna looked into this question. They spoke to around 300 current Facebook users and an equal number of quitters to see how they differed.

Their responses were used to assess measures focused on their level of concern over areas such as privacy and their tendency towards internet addiction.

The personalities of both those who remained on Facebook and those who had left were also looked at, with traits such as extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness recorded.

The university's research revealed that the top four reasons why those studied had quit Facebook were:

  • Concerns over privacy on the social site – 48.3%
  • A general feeling of dissatisfaction with Facebook – 13.5%
  • Meaningless conversations and negative interactions with friends – 12.6%
  • The fear of becoming addicted to the social network – 6%

The analysis of personality types discovered that those who had quit Facebook tended to be older, conscientious males who had a general level of concern about privacy as well as a higher predisposition towards internet addiction. Beyond that, aspects of a user's personality appeared to have no bearing on whether they committed “virtual suicide” or not.

The researchers wrote in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking:

The present research is to our knowledge the first to focus on psychological characteristics of individuals leaving social networking sites (SNSs) by committing so-called virtual identity suicide. Compared to Facebook users, quitters had higher general concerns about privacy, higher internet addiction scores, and higher conscientiousness.

They also highlighted comments made by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg back in 2010 when he suggested that privacy was an outdated concept in today's ever more connected world.

Perhaps, they suggested, many users did still indeed care about their privacy. So much so that it outweighed the benefits they saw in remaining on Facebook.

But this apparent increase in privacy awareness isn't solely because of Facebook. As Brenda Wiederhold, editor of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, puts it:

Given high-profile stories such as WikiLeaks and the recent NSA surveillance reports, individual citizens are becoming increasingly more wary of cyber-related privacy concerns. With photo tags, profiling, and Internet dependency issues, research such as Prof. Stieger’s is very timely.

What about you? Have you, or anyone you know, left Facebook because of concerns about privacy?

Image of exit sign courtesy of Shutterstock.

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11 Responses to Half of Facebook-quitters leave over privacy concerns

  1. John · 217 days ago

    I personally get tired of people sharing things that should not be shared on social media or talking about everything their kids do.... Remember no one loves your children as much as you do so we don't want to hear every little detail little Susie or Johnnie does!!!!

  2. sam kula · 217 days ago

    Yep Privacy and the quality of community is why I left for Google Plus long ago (you know the so called ghost town thats now No2 social network ahead of twitter.)

  3. I quit Facebook several years ago, after having an account for maybe 6 months total. The privacy concerns were a big issue, but "meaningless conversations" also played a big part. I've often thought of going back, but I'd really rather not.

  4. "In fact, many of us would be hard pressed to name any of our own contacts who are not already registered."

    Back when Facebook opened up to the general public, I took a peek at the site, and read the privacy page.

    From time to time since then, I've gone back and read the privacy page; it seems to be getting more convoluted, but not much has changed to actually protect my privacy while using the service.

    So, you can still count me among contacts who are not registered.

  5. Sumio · 217 days ago

    Apart from attention seekers who wants to post content with no value on their walls and liking anything and everything that their friends post, there seems to be a general trend with people having better things to do that go on facebook. With the increase in the number of annoying ads, people go there only when they have a message waiting or when they need to contact someone.

  6. DaveyL · 217 days ago

    According to Facebook I have an account with them, but I didn't set it up. They say if I want to delete it I have to send them my passport. Like hell I will.

  7. Guest · 217 days ago

    If I want to keep in touch with my friends, I have a phone number, an email address or a postal address for them. I don't need Facebook!
    If I don't have a phone number, email address or postal address for you, it's because I either don't know you, or don't wish to keep in touch with you any more. I have enough friends already, I don't need sociopathic wierdos trying to be my social networking BFF. I've had people stop me on the street that I went to school with asking me to add them on FB. They look at me like I've got two heads when I tell them that I don't do FB and even if I did I wouldn't add them because we had nothing in common 20 odd years ago, so we will have even less in common now! I just think that I've got better things to do than chat about banal nonsense on FB & the bit of free time that i do have is better spent with REAL friends and family.
    My kids tell me that I'm just anti-social.

  8. wrap2tyt · 217 days ago

    "In fact, many of us would be hard pressed to name any of our own contacts who are not already registered."

    Really, I can. Most people that I know do not use FB and concerns of privacy is what kept them from joining in the first place, me included. Back in '08 I was taking a writing class so I decided to do my presentation on EULA and Privacy statements, everyone looked at me like I had the "Black Plague", so I explained the differences and what to look for BEFORE clicking the "I Agree..." or "I Accept..." button and I used the FB privacy statement at that time as my example of what to look for... nobody cared, they just wanted to share pictures and look up old friends, become a virtual farmer with virtual pigs and whatever else you can do on FB, nobody was concerned that they were actually giving away the rights to their information... that is until I opened a web link to the SpyWareGuide EULA Analyzer Beta Version 1.1 @, http://www.spywareguide.Com/analyze/ . I copied and pasted the privacy statement in and the highlighted portions "broke it down" for them. Personally, there is now way I could agree to that. There was some shock and concern, but apparently not enough to make people question why they needed to give so much to get so little in return.

    Oh yeah, the Privacy Policy now is called "Data Usage Policy"... which in itself says so much, at least to me it does, it say WE USE YOUR DATA. This "Policy" is divided into six separate (individual) areas, so if you want to read it you have to look at six different links.

    Information we receive and how it is used
    Sharing and finding you on Facebook
    Other websites and applications
    How advertising and Sponsored Stories work
    Cookies, pixels and other system technologies
    Some other things you need to know

    ...no thanks.

  9. Andy · 216 days ago

    nothing of a surprise here.

  10. quitfacebooknow · 197 days ago

    This is a great post, it's also refreshing to read the comments here from people who are not wasting their time on fb

  11. Angelina · 180 days ago

    I just left over privacy concerns two days ago (and about a month before that, but returned for the sole purpose of Angry Birds...with Friends!). I hate that so many applications are linked to FB and require you to have an account in order to play with your friends. I eventually decided the Angry Birds just was not worth it if I had to keep the world in my business as a consequence. No thanks Zuckerberg!

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About the author

Lee Munson is the founder of Security FAQs, a social media manager with BH Consulting and a blogger with a huge passion for information security.