More than 50% of young Australians have seriously considered shutting down their Facebook accounts, even while many of them check the site compulsively through the day.
While Facebook grew exponentially since launching in 2004, especially in its first three years, recent research has found many users fatigued and wanting a break.
And this trend has only been exacerbated by the appearance of articles and blogs including a list of reasons to leave Facebook, why leaving Facebook improves life, why teenagers no longer care for Facebook, and how Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself.
A recent Pew Research survey found that 61% of Facebook users in the US have taken a voluntary break from using the site and 27% plan to spend less time on the site this coming year.
Notably, young adults aged 19 to 29 were the most likely anticipators of decreased engagement, with 38% expecting to spend less time on Facebook this year.
The Pew study did not try to determine how many users actually deactivated accounts as opposed to “taking breaks,” nor did it examine non-American user trends. It is unclear whether the incidence of deactivation is a growing trend in Australia as, up until now, no conclusive research has been conducted on the topic and Facebook refuses to release the data.
But a new study of 19 to 29 year old Facebook users in Australia gives us a much clearer picture of Facebook attachment in Australia. The survey was divided into a student sample and a non-student sample.
Whilst 75.5% of respondents reported checking their Facebook feed over five times per day, indicating a substantial attachment to Facebook, 56.3% reported having seriously considered deactivating their accounts.
And 25.9% had deactivated their account at some point in the last twelve months. Nearly 40% had deactivated their account at least once in the last seven years.
Fifteen students were also asked to give longer answers on their views on deactivation.
Of these, 5 had deactivated in the past 12 months, 5 were seriously considering deactivating and 5 had never seriously considered deactivating.
The study showed a consistent trend across all three of these interviewees, that users started off with active status posting but increasingly became silent lurkers. In fact, the usage of facebook actually increased in terms of how often they logged in to the point where many felt it to be an unhealthy addiction. One respondent reported checking their facebook account: “10 x an hour, 18 hours a day, so like 175 – 190 [time a day]”. The more addictive behaviour was attributed to having Facebook as a mobile app, where there was no log in and it enabled continual short bursts of updates all day.
Interviewees also reported the ambient nature of facebook, the sense of always needing to be connected to it on their phone or computer. This constant pressure that users felt from facebook had negative consequences on mood: summed up by one participant who said:
I think interacting with people on a platform like that is so performative that it’s almost like being in one of the worst social situations but constantly being there, like you can’t leave. Like a terrible club where you can’t talk to anyone and they’re all there and they all look fantastic and they’re all really drunk but no-one is really saying anything to one another.
Time-wasting was another source of frustration leading to thoughts of deactivation:
[People deactivate because] it’s actually sucking life out of them, in the sense that they don’t get anything from Facebook. It’s not a social media that enriched your life. You just realise that your reading all this stuff about people who you don’t care about and I think a lot of people, when they realise that they don’t actually care about any of those people and that it’s a waste of their time, then they deactivate.
But while there is pressure to deactivate, there is the validation that some users get out of Facebook, and a high level of FoMo: fear of missing out.
Every time I deactivate there are things I don’t get invited to and people are like, why didn’t you come to that or whatever, which is kinda bad because people are so fully reliant on it.
The study has revealed a paradox in current Facebook use. Although people are checking it more frequently, they are simultaneously becoming more passive in their use. The more passive the use, the more intense are the feelings of isolation, and the more the user will agonise over whether to deactivate.
You can read the analysis piece on this study here.
This article first appeared in The Conversation
Apply now: Hong Kong field school
What does it take to get a job in journalism in Asia – and why is Hong Kong so vital to the global news industry? In this unit, students will travel to the Asian media capital to explore why this world city is the big draw for news companies from around the globe.
Monash journalism graduates & staff win three Quills
Monash University students, graduates and staff have stamped their authority on Australian journalism to claim three Quill awards and three high commendations in the coveted 2016 Melbourne Press Club awards.
What leading editors look for in student journalists
Colleen Murrell, a senior lecturer in the journalism department at Monash University, spent part of January and February this year interviewing media editors in Sydney, London and Paris for a research project. The Times editor, John Witherow (pictured left), offers great advice for student journalists.
Nathan joins AFL reigning premier, the Bulldogs
Monash University journalism graduate Nathan Lay has landed an impressive role at the Western Bulldogs, working as the social media and digital coordinator for the AFL’s reigning premier. Nathan interned at St Kilda to prepare for his great opportunity.
Game, set, match with alumnus Joel Smith
From creating a documentary in Norway to producing a 10 week radio show, we spoke with Joel Smith about his study experience at Monash and how he landed his dream job at Tennis Australia.
Monash journalism’s strong showing in the Quills
Monash University students, graduates and staff have been named finalists – eight times – in the coveted Melbourne … Continue reading Monash journalism’s strong showing in the Quills
Chloe aspires to a mainstream broadcast career
Monash journalism graduate Chloe Strahan first studied health studies and occupational therapy before realising that … Continue reading Chloe aspires to a mainstream broadcast career
Getting to know … Professor Monika Djerf-Pierre
Monash University Adjunct Professor Monika Djerf-Pierre is working on research projects with her fellow colleagues in … Continue reading Getting to know … Professor Monika Djerf-Pierre
Alana lands key reporting role at The New Daily
Melbourne journalist Alana Mitchelson scored an international fellowship soon after graduating from Monash. Since then, … Continue reading Alana lands key reporting role at The New Daily
MFJ academics play key part in Screening Melbourne
Screening Melbourne, an exciting conference and events program, was held in the the CBD recently, which involved moving attendees through the city to experience its history, materiality and contemporary complexity.
Justin Hilliard scores dream journalism job
Motoring writer Justin Hilliard scored his dream job at GoAutoMedia after graduating with a Master of … Continue reading Justin Hilliard scores dream journalism job
Death or Liberty tour stirs up Australia’s transglobal place
Death or Liberty, the screen adaptation of the history of political rebels and radicals transported as convicts to Australia, toured to the UK and Ireland in December 2016. The documentary is adapted from the book Death or Liberty: Rebels and Radicals Transported to Australia 1788-1868, written by Associate Professor Tony Moore from the School of Media, Film and Journalism.