Christian Chen, Contributing Writer

Could it be possible that Facebook, one of the largest social media platforms, may become obsolete?

In recent years, people are starting to leave the social media giant. Their reasons vary, ranging from tiresome scandals to an excessive amount of political debate, to even concerns of privacy invasion. There are many different reasons for this radical falling away of Facebook users, as evidenced by various studies done by a variety of organizations. For example, according to the stock market news site MarketWatch, Facebook lost about 15 million users this year compared to 2017. For people aged 12 to 24, usage plunged 17% over the past two years. By comparison, only 3% of people between 35 and 54 left Facebook and 4% of people aged 54 and up left. However, that is not to say that Facebook’s popularity diminished as well; it is still one of the most popular social media platforms for people 12 years and older, with a 2015 study revealing that 65% of social media users revealing that they use Facebook the most.

According to one UMSL student, “I just think it’s a disproportionate amount of politics as opposed to picture sharing, which is what Facebook is good for…I think the politics divides people on Facebook, when it should be uniting people.” 

UMSL student Ellie Hogrebe echoed that sentiment, claiming, “Political debates on Facebook can get emotionally taxing…things get very tense on Facebook when politics get involved.”

Another reason people are abandoning Facebook in droves is due to privacy invasion concerns. A study done by Ponemon Institute indicated that trust in Facebook took a 66% plunge in 2018 due to revelations of how Facebook collects personal data. In a survey done by Chairman Ponemon, about 3,000 Facebook users were asked how they felt about Facebook’s statement, “Facebook is committed to protecting the privacy of personal information.” In 2011, 67% agreed. By 2017, it grew again 79%. However, a week after the Cambridge Analytica revelation, confidence in Facebook dropped 27%, went up a little by 33%, and then dropped again to 28% due to Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony regarding the privacy scandals in Washington DC. The results stunned Ponemon chairman Norman Ponemon, who claimed he didn’t expect to see such a drop, instead expecting to see a decrease in trust.

It isn’t just privacy concerns; some people are giving up Facebook for other reasons, ranging from social media alternatives to simply being happier people. Former Washington University student Janelle Kuan said, “There are many other social media apps now…there are more news posts and posts on things for sale on Facebook, and maybe some people don’t like seeing those things, like they only want to see ‘fun posts.’” 

Another college graduate, Russell Santen, offered his own take on the trend, claiming that “people are just burned out on it…Too much political stuff and not to mention we waste a lot of our time using it…we’re just overly bombarded with social media and it’s really quite distracting.” 

In addition, graphic designer Jamie Mears, who commonly uses Facebook for business reasons, said, “It’s exhausting. Everything feels so divisive. The creeps are hard to take too…more than that; I don’t feel I can be as free as I want to be. I’m a professional in the community. On some levels you feel a need to keep up with an appearance. As I’ve grown older, and my line of work has jaded me significantly, I feel it’s less authentic…Depressing, in some ways. Social media sucks the life out of people.”

UMSL student Ellie Hogrebe said, “I think people just find Instagram and Snapchat to be more interactive and more appealing to people.”

Whatever the reason may be for Facebook’s loss of users, it can be assumed that this trend may continue until Facebook goes completely obsolete, although some doubt that Facebook will ever be completely phased out. Only time will tell.