The Facebook exodus among young people is real, and disenchantment with the leading social media platform is extending to older users, too. According to new data from Pew Research Center that sampled US Facebook users aged 18 and up, 4 in 10 (42 percent) of those surveyed have taken a break from the social network for “several weeks or more” in the last year; a quarter of respondents said they’ve deleted the mobile app entirely from their smartphones.
Pew’s survey was conducted between May 29th and June 11th, so the burnout and frustrations stemming from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal were still fresh in the minds of users. But it’s an alarming sign that shows people have a bad taste in their mouths from Facebook after months hearing about privacy mishaps, election meddling, misinformation campaigns, and questionable moderation practices. Today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is testifying before Congress regarding how foreign countries are wielding technology platforms to sow discord and unrest in the United States.
The movement away from Facebook really does seem to be generational: 44 percent of users between 18 and 29 told Pew they deleted Facebook’s app versus the 20 percent of people aged 50–64 who did so. For users over 65, that number dropped to 12 percent. At a minimum, over half of the respondents said they’ve adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, which Facebook has taken steps to make easier.
But this doesn’t just come down to politics. Pew found that “Republicans are no more likely than Democrats to have taken a break from Facebook or deleted the app from their phone in the past year.” The recent swell of criticism directed at Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms over supposed censorship came well after the Pew survey was conducted, so it may be a factor the next time around.