Around two-thirds of all online Americans use Facebook, but nearly two-thirds of those report having taken long breaks from the social network, while others have already given up on it, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
In the study's findings published on Tuesday, 61 per cent of current Facebook users said that at one time or another they had voluntarily taken a break from the site that lasted several weeks or more.
Furthermore, of those internet users surveyed who said they weren't on Facebook, 20 per cent reported that they had once used it but no longer do.
Both groups cited similar reasons for walking away. But while you might assume that privacy concerns or excessive advertising would be foremost among them, that wasn't the case. In fact, only 4 per cent of respondents cited those reasons – fewer than the number who said they had taken a break "for no real reason" or "just because."
As it happens, the top reason given for taking a "Facebook vacation" was that the site demanded too much attention, with 21 per cent of respondents reporting that they were too busy or didn't have time for it. Similarly, another 8 per cent said they took a break because they were spending too much time on the site.
"You get burned out on it after a while," one survey respondent wrote, while another said, "I took a break when it got boring." The latter sentiment was shared by 7 per cent of those surveyed.
Other respondents were more critical of Facebook and what it had to offer. Facebook's content was perceived as being irrelevant or "a waste of time" by 10 per cent of those surveyed, while another 10 per cent reported that they either didn't like the site or just weren't interested.
Another 9 per cent reported that there was too much conflict, negativity, gossip, or "drama" on Facebook. One former user who had quit the social network reported getting "tired of minding everybody else's business," while another said, "[I had] crazy friends. I did not want to be contacted."
Few of these results are likely to be surprising to anyone who has spent significant time on Facebook. What does seem counterintuitive, however, is that the study found that it was younger users, not older ones, who were more likely to lose interest in the site.
Only 17 per cent of Facebook users aged 50 or above said they planned to spend less time on Facebook in the coming year. Of those users aged 30 to 49, 26 per cent said they were going to cut down. But the figure for 18-to-29-year olds was 38 per cent, suggesting that young adults may already be moving on to the proverbial Next Big Thing.
Similarly, 4 per cent of users aged 30 and older said they expected to increase their Facebook time in the next 12 months, but only 1 per cent of younger users said the same.
Don't expect Zuck & Co. to crash and burn any time soon, though. As the Pew study points out, 69 per cent of online American adults use social networking sites, and of those, 92 per cent have an account on Facebook. Furthermore, across all of the adults surveyed, 69 per cent said they planned to spend the same amount of time on Facebook in the coming year as they did last year.
It seems that for all its perceived faults, Facebook has become an indelible part of American online life. Even the 61 per cent of survey respondents who reported taking a break couldn't stay away for long. And so, to those 20 per cent who say they've quit Facebook, allow this Reg reporter to extend his gnarled index finger and say: "You'll be back! Mark my words ... you'll be back!" ®