Facebook boasts more than a billion active monthly users, and the numbers keep growing. But recently, a counter-trend has emerged: many Facebook members have been pulling the plug on their accounts. Is there a difference between the types of people who continue to use the website and those who deactivate? A new study suggests that “Facebook quitters,” as the researchers put it, have different personality traits from those who stay. From the paper’s abstract:
We found Facebook quitters to be significantly more cautious about their privacy, having higher Internet addiction scores, and being more conscientious than Facebook users. The main self-stated reason for committing virtual identity suicide was privacy concerns (48 percent).
And from the press release:
If you are ready to commit “virtual identity suicide,” delete your Facebook account, and say good-bye to social networking sites, you are not alone. A social networking counter movement is emerging, and Facebook quitters, who remove their accounts, differ from Facebook users in several key ways, as described in an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
“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,” says Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA. “With photo tags, profiling, and internet dependency issues, research such as Professor Stieger’s is very timely.”
On a related note: a recent article in the New Yorker discussed how certain types of Facebook use can make people unhappy. If users lurk around the site, they are more likely to be psychologically affected by practicing social comparison. But according to the article, if users actively participate in online dialogue, they gain happiness from Facebook use.
Put those findings together with this new study on quitters, and a purely speculative hypothesis could present itself: a concern for privacy could prevent people from fully interacting with Facebook; but because this behavior causes unhappiness, they might be more likely to become quitters.
Readers, have you quit Facebook or do you know someone who has? Why did you or they commit “virtual identity suicide”?