Privacy concerns have prompted many millennials to change their relationship with Facebook, even as COO Sheryl Sandberg addresses Congress about foreign meddling.
Facebook users are becoming more private — and many are deleting the app from their phones.
More than half of users ages 18 and older (54%) have adjusted their privacy settings over the past year, according to new Pew research released on Wednesday. And four in 10 (42%) said they have taken a break from checking the social network for several week or more, while a quarter (26%) admitted they deleted the app from their phone. In total, 74% of surveyed Facebook users said they took at least one of these three actions in the past year.
And Gen-Zers and millennials are the most likely to log off, as 44% of younger users (ages 18 to 29) said they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year; nearly four times as many as those aged 65 and up (12%) who have done so. And 64% of these younger users have adjusted their Facebook privacy settings in the last 12 months, compared to just one-third of Facebook users 65 and older.
The Pew Research Center surveyed 4,594 U.S. adults in May and June, in the wake of the revelations that the former consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge, which led Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress in April. The new data hits the same day that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey take their turn before Congress to discuss what their platforms are doing to prevent foreign interference ahead of the U.S. midterm elections this fall.
And this backs a June survey by public relations agency Edelman, which found that growing distrust in sites like Twitter and Facebook has prompted 40% of people with social media accounts to delete at least one of them in the past year.
The firm polled 9,000 people in Canada, China, France, Germany, Brazil, India, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and the U.S., and found collective outrage over repeated online privacy violations stemming from the Cambridge Analytica data leak and uncertainty about the truth in articles online as a result of the Russian-produced fake news that influenced the 2016 presidential election. What’s more, 48% surveyed said that it’s a brand’s fault if its advertising appears next to violent or hateful content, and 62% wanted more regulation on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. A whopping 2.6 billion people use social media across the globe.
The social networks are scrambling to do damage control. Facebook agreed to take down 270 pages and accounts in April posted by the Internet Research Agency, the Russian group that tried to influence the election. And in May, both Twitter and Facebook debuted stricter guidelines for political ads ahead of the midterm elections. Facebook updated its privacy settings to make it easier for users to download the data the site had collected about them. And Pew found that around one in 10 Facebook users (9%) have downloaded the personal data about them available on Facebook — which led to 47% of these users to delete the app, and 79% of them to adjust their privacy settings.
As previously noted, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also endured a two-day congressional testimony before House and Senate lawmakers in April, fielding questions regarding data collection, censorship, user privacy and whether the platform should be regulated after the social media platform allowed more than 50 million users’ data to be harvested by British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook revealed that it knew about the breach since 2015, but only just suspended the firm from its platform this year. The controversy led to a #DeleteFacebook movement, with users vowing to permanently leave the world’s largest social network. As a result, 7% of Americans deleted the Facebook app from their phone over privacy concerns, and 9% said they deleted their account altogether.
And another survey last year revealed our society’s collective distrust regarding privacy online — just 9% of social media users were “very confident” that companies would protect their data, and about half of users were not at all or not too confident that their data was in safe hands.
Apart from privacy concerns, deleting more social media accounts could also help boost happiness. Research has shown that social media can negatively affect users’ mental health and wellbeing, with one study indicating that an increase in someone’s Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use could significantly lead to a decline in mental health and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
This article was originally published on June 24, 2018 and has been updated with the new Pew Research Center data.
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