Scarcity of personal time resources as a reason for quitting Facebook?

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project published some interesting non-use related numbers related to Facebook, in a report titled “Coming and Going on Facebook”:

61% of current Facebook users say that at one time or another in the past they have voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.

20% of the online adults who do not currently use Facebook say they once used the site but no longer do so.

8% of online adults who do not currently use Facebook are interested in becoming Facebook users in the future.

Seeing that more than half of the respondents have at least temporarily been non-users, excluding themselves from the interactions on the platform for several weeks is a strong indicator for just how relevant the various forms of absence from an SNS are. Also, the numbers indicate that of those who could be considered “not-yet-users”, 20% already have experiences with Facebook and only 8% expressed being potentially interested.

Reasons for leaving

Beyond these bare numbers, the key findings from the report reveal some interesting insights into the motivations of people who either had taken a break from or left Facebook. While analysis based on already processed data inevitably has limited validity, I worked with the data from the report looking for possibly “hidden” insight.

Loosely borrowing some of the terminology from the tentative classification by Satchell and Dourish from 2009, I suggest the answers presented in Pew’s “Reasons for Facebook Breaks” table could be grouped as follows (excluding the 14% of responses that do not clearly indicate a motive: 8% partial users, 6% no real reason):

  • 39% disinterest/disenchantment: 10% not interested in using, 10% experience of irrelevance, 9% tired by negative experiences with gossip etc., 7% bored by it, 2% prefer other ways of interaction, 1% do not want to share information
  • 16% disenfranchisement: 8% vacation or other absence, 4% privacy concerns, 2% no computer access, 2% health/age

This is of course only a rough guess, but fair enough for my purpose in this exploration.

While the group of the truly disenfranchised in relation to Facebook use would not be captured by this survey (as this data is based solely on the respondents who have been taking a break, not leaving the service) and the distinction between disinterest, disenchantment and disenfranchisement is hard to make based on the table of summarized results, one group particularly stands out:

  • 31% time-related reasons: 21% had no time, 8% spent too much time on the site

This is interesting. While over half of the reasons can be summarized being related in some way to either not being interested or not having access, almost a third of respondents indicated that time was the key factor for their discontinued use of the SNS.

Conceptual illustration, roughly based on the numbers retrieved from the Pew Research Center's report.
Image caption: Conceptual illustration, roughly based on the numbers retrieved from the Pew Research Center’s report.

Above chart obviously does no longer have a connection to Pew’s original data, but it can serve as a tool for qualitative thoughts about what makes people to stop using Facebook. To me at least, it seems reasonable to assume the the two main factors are either interest or time, with limited access to the service (more of an external reason for not using) takes a third place.

Time allocation as a motive for non-use

Is the lack of or other allocation of personal time just another form of disenfranchisement (the concept not fitting the life reality of the individual in regards to time resources)? Or could it be justified to consider yet another category of non-users: people who are or may be interested and the service basically fits into their lives regarding access and general conceptual relevance, but they either do not have or do not want to allocate the required amount of time to its use.


Rainie, L., Smith, A., & Duggan, M. (2013). Coming and Going on Facebook. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Feb 5, 2013, Satchell, C., & Dourish, P. (2009). Beyond the user: use and non-use in HCI. In Proceedings of the 21st annual conference of the australian computer-human interaction special interest group: Design: Open 24/7 (pp. 9-16). Melbourne, Australia: ACM. doi:10.1145/1738826.1738829

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