When Naydeline Mejia joined Facebook in 2011, she used it constantly.
“I wasn’t on Twitter yet, and Instagram hadn’t really popped off at that time,” Mejia, a 22-year-old in New York City, told Mashable. “I was probably on the platform every day, if not every other day. I would use it to connect with friends from school, and as an alternative for texting with Facebook Messenger.”
Then, a few years ago, she started logging on less and less frequently. Her attention was being pulled by Instagram, where more of her friends were. Now, she says she is “almost never on Facebook.” But she hasn’t deleted her account.
More than three billion people use Facebook every month — and nearly 2.6 billion are active users who log onto the platform every day, according to Facebook. That leaves about 400 million people who have Facebook accounts but don’t log on often. It’s not so much that they love the platform itself, but it’s that Facebook has become such a staple in our lives on the internet that deleting it completely doesn’t feel like an option if you want to remember birthdays, log onto other platforms, or keep up with far-flung acquaintances.
Tahmina Osmanzai, a 26-year-old in New York City, is one of the fairly inactive Facebook users. She joined in 2010, she told Mashable, but never uses it because, she says, “I do not enjoy the platform at all.”
“I do not enjoy the platform at all.”
“It was a little buggy when I had it on my phone. When I use it on the computer, it is nearly unbearably slow that using it is a chore,” Osmanzai explained. She added, “I started to use Facebook less the more I used Instagram. More notably after college since the need for groups was no longer necessary for me. Once Facebook separated its Messenger app from the main Facebook app, I also used it less.”
Alexandra Kuks, a 25-year-old from Queens, New York, made a Facebook account in 2008, but she told Mashable, “Year after year, I started using Facebook less and less.”
Beyond the clunkiness and inconvenience of both the phone app and the desktop version, the urge to delete your account isn’t unwarranted from an ethical standpoint. Take your pick of Facebook’s problematic behaviors: Its unconvincing attempt to tackle ; the that revealed how much data Facebook was taking from its users; “” and the ; its role in ; the fact that it’s been .
There’s really no shortage of reasons behind the push, which began after the revelation that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of millions of users without their consent. The movement didn’t actually start a boycott of Facebook, which was its goal, but it arguably did increase awareness around digital privacy.
“It’s really rough seeing people share articles and other media that are, quite literally, fake news,” Kuks said. “Yes, this happens on every social media site in existence, but I saw it the most on Facebook. That being said, I’m seeing a lot more posts being flagged stating whether the information that was shared is accurate or not. Do I fully trust that? No, I’ll continue to do my own research. But it’s a start.”
For a lot of users, it isn’t that they don’t want to delete their Facebook — it’s that Facebook has become so intertwined with the way they live online that they can’t really escape it. To leave Facebook would be to shift the way they interact with the internet.
That’s not an accident, of course. Whether we want it to be or not, Facebook is now a part of our internet DNA. In my search to find out why people who just don’t use their Facebook accounts hold onto them anyway, I discovered there are plenty of reasons inactive or under-active users keep their profiles around — from just-in-case scenarios of remembering important events, to holding onto the thread that keeps you connected to your family.
You cannot remember a single date
One of the many reasons I still keep my Facebook account is because my greatest flaw is that I cannot remember birthdays or the dates and times of any event. Facebook is one of the only places I can get keep track of important anniversaries or, in pre-pandemic times, get a reminder about a party I was supposed to go to. The same goes for Osmanzai, who says she logs into Facebook “to see any dog pictures my boyfriend tags me in and to check on birthdays I might have forgotten.”
You need Facebook to log into other platforms
All of our social media platforms and apps are so deeply interconnected, it’s hard to even imagine being able to separate them out from each other. While fewer apps now fully require you to have a Facebook or Instagram account to sign up for their service than they once did, logging into most apps is still much easier if you can just click the Facebook button instead of inputting your own login and password.
For some users, deleting their Facebook account would mean deleting their access to other apps, too. Up until recently, you had to have a Facebook account to create a Tinder account, and connecting your Facebook and Instagram accounts to your dating profiles makes it easier to add photos. It’s a lot of work to set up a new account every time you want to use a new ride-hailing service or food delivery app, and using Facebook to log in solves that problem.
You want to use another Facebook-owned app, like Messenger and Instagram
You certainly can have a Messenger account or an Instagram account without having a Facebook account, but it feels ridiculous to delete your Facebook account just to spend all your time at another Facebook-owned social media platform. Some users have one of the other platforms Facebook owns — including Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp — so interconnected to their Facebook account, that it would feel incomplete to get rid of one and keep the rest.
“I also use the Messenger app heavily to communicate with some of my closest friends,” Osmanzai said. “We have different phones (iPhone v Android) and Messenger has become our preferred communication outlet.” If she deleted her Facebook account, it’d be more difficult to talk to her friends on Facebook Messenger.
You don’t want to cut community ties
A showed that 28 percent of U.S. parents with grown children use social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter to communicate with their families. Kuks, for instance, uses Facebook to keep up with her family in Argentina.
“It’s nice to see photos of their lives in Argentina and it’s nice to give and receive comments on our posts,” Kuks said. “I’m not fluent in Spanish yet so communication is rather difficult at times, seeing pictures of them and their lives makes communication a lot easier for all of us and it makes my heart feel so full so actually see my family, even through a computer or phone screen. I feel very connected to them and for that I’m so grateful.”
“I feel very connected to them and for that I’m so grateful.”
If you were to delete Facebook, you’d run the risk of cutting ties with people you don’t have much connection with offline. It’s much easier to keep up with your family members by searching them and seeing what they’re up to on Facebook than it is to pick up the phone — especially with people you might not want to talk to every day or people who live in other countries or speak a different language than you do.
And then there are all those people in your life who you don’t talk to very often, but you still want to keep up with — like a high school ex or someone from your dorm in college. You could permanently lose touch with a lot of people if you delete your account, or you’d have to seek them out on another social platform specifically.
You want to keep a digital time capsule
For many people, deleting their Facebook (and thus losing access to their profile) would mean cutting off ties with a representation of their past selves. Osmanzai said she has spent a decade making her profile what it is, and “the thought of deactivating it just feels bad.” She wants to keep her tagged photos, her wall posts, and everything else that would disappear into the ether if she deleted her account.
“I have so many photos on Facebook from middle school and high school that would most likely be lost if I deleted my account,” Mejia said.
One alternative here is to download an archive of your entire Facebook history to keep on hand — but it won’t be the same thing as having it preserved on an interactive platform.
You need it for work or school
I’ve resisted the temptation to delete my own Facebook mostly because, as a journalist, it would be difficult to do my job without following what’s going on with the billions of people who log onto the platform across the world. And that’s true for a lot of people — it’s tied to their college classes or they have a page they have to manage for their job.
“If I do use the platform, it’s to keep in touch with clubs at my school or find niche information,” Mejia said, like when she considered moving abroad and “I think the main reason why I am still on Facebook is because it’s still the main platform that college students use to connect with other students and clubs.”
So, there you have it. There are plenty of reasons folks are keeping their accounts if they don’t use the app regularly. And if we want Facebook to be a better place — for our digital privacy, for our democracy, for aesthetic purposes — it feels misplaced to put the responsibility entirely on the shoulders of users. It’s a lot to ask people to get rid of a major part of their digital lives altogether and change the way they live online.