In the past several months, some social-media users have threatened to #DeleteFacebook, but is anyone actually following through?
Facebook lost about $120 billion in market capitalization Thursday, after the company’s guidance came in behind most analysts’ expectations.
Facebook FB, -0.78% said it’s adding new users at a slower pace. The company reported a drop of 3 million daily users in Europe alone since the first quarter, when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation first went into effect. In the U.S. and Canada, user growth was flat. This is stoking concerns among analysts that Facebook, the world’s largest social network with some 2 billion users, may not be as attractive to users as it once was.
When it was first revealed that the U.K.-based campaign strategy firm Cambridge Analytica used millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their permission, many consumers said they planned to deactivate their accounts. Those who chose to delete Facebook told MarketWatch they felt relieved to be free from the pressure to always lead a happy life online. But others said they had difficulty staying in touch with family and even difficulties dating.
(A spokesperson for Facebook said she had no additional comment, beyond the company’s earnings report.)
Here is what former users had to say about what happened after they deleted or deactivated their account:
‘It’s like a crazy ex that never forgets about you’
Jax Austin, a travel video blogger who travels the U.S. in a converted school bus, made the decision to delete his Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But when he tried to, it didn’t work. “They make it so hard that it’s almost possible to delete it,” Austin said. “It’s like a crazy ex that never forgets about you.”
Others had the same trouble Austin did in making a clean break. Facebook is part of an ecosystem of apps. That makes the decision to delete far more complicated. Dating apps such as Tinder IAC, -2.80% and Hinge, and services like Spotify SPOT, -5.10% can all use Facebook to create user profiles.
Austin’s Facebook account was connected with the free web service If This Then That, which posted YouTube GOOG, -2.35% videos to his Facebook profile automatically. Austin settled for no longer logging into Facebook and turned his account into a fan page.
‘So much of social life is tied to Facebook’
When Allen Watson, 32, a freelance writer from South Carolina, deleted his Facebook account, his mother was the most disappointed of his Facebook friends. “That’s how she kept in touch with me,” Watson said. “She wants to show off the things that I do.”
Jillian Clemmons, an artist and astrologer from Los Angeles, mostly found that people were supportive of her choice. But she did encounter some hostility. “People react really defensively and almost see a decision like this as an attack on them,” she said. “In a way, it’s like how meat-eaters constantly complain about people who are vegetarian. They feel guilty and counter-punch first.”
Don’t miss: Your Facebook ‘cult’ won’t let you quit
Anastasia Ashman, 53, an adviser for start-ups and investors who lives in San Francisco, said she quit Facebook when she became uncomfortable after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. One tweet, in particular, from national-security expert John Schindler convinced her to leave.
But the costs of leaving are “huge,” she said. She has few people’s recent email addresses or phone numbers, and she can no longer rely on Facebook for contacting them. “So much of social life is tied to Facebook I can’t even get the location information I need for an event I RSVP-ed to for next weekend, since it’s solely on Facebook,” she said.
‘I am really not interested in whether or not your child is potty trained’
Mark Maitland, a 44-year-old writer in Brighton, England, who quit Facebook last week, still uses Twitter and Instagram, but rarely. He now spends more time reading and writing, “talking and listening to real people,” walking his dog and running in nature.
Some people gave up Facebook years ago. Nick Vecore, a 28-year-old who works in public relations in Leonard, Mich., said he quit Facebook in 2012, because he was simply sick of seeing “nonsense.”
“I am really not interested in whether or not your child is potty trained,” he said. “I could keep people up-to-date on my life by talking to them in person, by text or through a phone call.” It’s not a total digital social-media detox, however. He too still uses Instagram and uses Twitter TWTR, -20.54% for work.
It can make verifying prospective dates tricky
Watson, the freelance writer, used Facebook to verify the identities of people he had met through dating apps. And while he can still do that if people have relatively public profiles, in most cases he can’t access their accounts because he no longer has one. “I’ve had occasions where I had to call somebody up and ask them to check something out for me,” Watson said.
And while he has not yet encountered anyone who was turned off by his lack of a Facebook profile, he does bring it up when he meets someone new.
Some users only have Facebook on their desktop computer
Mae Turner, who lives in northeast Texas, initially deactivated her Facebook account in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, after being alarmed at how the company collected the call history information for her Android smartphone.
(Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress in April to answer for some of these issues, including misuse of consumer data. In a statement to the House panel, he said, “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm …. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”)
But less than two weeks after deactivating her account, Turner revived it, because she felt isolated from friends and family. In one particularly troubling instance, it took days before she found out about the death of a close friend’s wife who lived in another state. The news had only been posted on Facebook. Her brother, who still had his account, was the one who relayed it to her.
“I started to feel like I was being left out of the loop,” she said. However, she is now a Facebook “light” user. She only uses the desktop version and does not allow any third parties to access her account information. And if she finds a social network that does not monetize user data? “I’ll bid Facebook a not-so-fond farewell in a heartbeat,” she said.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.