March 7, 2013— -- If you haven't noticed, there's currently a mass exodus from Facebook taking place. In the past three months there's been a drop among users in the United States, and an even more considerable dip among users in the United Kingdom.
And the herds that are deviating from the most popular social networking website don't fall into one particular demographic either. It's not just adults leaving, but teens as well. If teens don't find the site cool anymore, you know there's an issue.
Facebook has taken note, warning investors in its annual report of teens' new preference for Instagram, which Facebook owns but still derives no revenue from. But otherwise it seems unconcerned. The biggest change rolling out in the next week is a new look for the newsfeed, set to debut on March 7.
As of this story's publication, it's been more than three months since I deactivated my own Facebook account. I did it on January 1st, and at the time it wasn't to make some grand gesture but simply because I'd grown tired of it.
Then I realized I wasn't alone. For some reason several of my friends and acquaintances used the start of 2013 as a new beginning.
But why now?
The shift toward a Facebook-free life has been mounting gradually. Perhaps it began when the once private company went public last spring. Some speculated the move would lead to an overhaul of the entire site: more updates, more ads, new regulations.
Then there are the privacy clauses, which are constantly changing.
But the reasons people are fleeing the social network may go deeper than that. Facebook, it turns out, has a strong effect on its users' lives and emotions.
Facebook makes us feel badly about ourselves.
A new study conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Catalina Toma and Cornell University professor Jeffrey Hancock examined social networks. Facebook, they found, "is not just about checking out photos and updates from friends, but more about checking up on how others view you."
What we want when others view us, they learned, is praise. It's gratifying when people "Like" and/or comment on your new profile photo. The problem is that, when they don't grace you with "Likes" or comments, it makes you feel less valuable.
Facebook makes us envious.
Reuters reporter Belinda Goldsmith published a story regarding a study conducted by two German universities that concluded Facebook makes us want what others have. As a result, we feel less content with our own lives. "Researchers found that one in three people felt worse after visiting the site and more dissatisfied with their lives, while people who browsed without contributing were affected the most," Goldsmith said.
"We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook, with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry," researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin's Humboldt University told Reuters.
Facebook makes us sad.
Because Facebook users project a perfectly crafted image of what they think their life should be, others viewing those nicely cropped photos of happiness end up overestimating how good the lives of others really are. Their own lives don't measure up as a result.