What Happens When You Quit Facebook? A Data-Driven Answer

About Little Data

We spend a lot of time talking about big data at Umbel, which is why I’d like to devote these biweekly posts to exploring little data – small, personal data sets collected by hand. I’ll be looking for small ways to improve or understand my decisions by tracking and visualizing a new area of my life in each post. Let’s find out if the size of the data set is less important than the questions you ask of it.

The Experiment

For this first little data experiment I’m tackling my casual Facebook addiction. I say casual because I wouldn’t call myself a very active Facebook user, but I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time there. To find out what I’d actually miss, I decided to deactivate my account and track every time I needed it, missed out on something or absentmindedly visited it.

Deactivating my account turned out to be a bit of a hassle. Facebook does everything it can to convince you not to deactivate, including using pictures of your friends to beg you to stay. Once I made it past the smiling faces of my friends and family, I was Facebook free!

And the experiment had begun.

The Visualization

Visualization of what happens when you leave facebook.

The Results

When I began sifting through the data — I recorded day, time, and reason for missing Facebook — and it fell quite neatly into 4 categories. Most common were absentminded visits (pink), followed by social visits (blue), then 3rd party logins (gold), and missed news events (purple).

If you take a look at the visualization, you’ll see that the number one reason I go to Facebook is out of habit. Those pinkish dots represent each time I visited Facebook while I knew it was deactivated. Imagine how many times I absentmindedly wander there when it isn’t deactivated (my 7th grade science teacher Mrs. Erickson is shaking her head here because I didn’t include a control group)!

The biggest surprise for me was the number of social logins I needed. Each of those gold dots is an account I had to recreate or work around because I couldn’t login with Facebook. Of course, this is a personal ( and mostly lazy) choice so I don’t have to keep coming up with more passwords, but one that makes Facebook a much more important part of my internet life.

I’m proud to say that after hitting a withdrawal peak on day 4, I needed Facebook less each day. The one dashed line in the visualization indicates that Day 9 was my first (and only) Facebook free day. Unfortunately, I think a lot that causal Internet surfing energy was redirected to Twitter.

Some notable things I (almost) missed while not on Facebook:

• I almost couldn’t get movie tickets to Wild Tales (check it out, it was great) because my Alamo Drafthouse account is linked to my Facebook.

• One Direction broke up? Or lost a member? I’m still a little out of the loop because I missed the Facebook news cycle on this one.

• I nearly missed one of my best friends’ birthdays. I was reminded at 11:34pm, so I made it with a few minutes to spare. Phew!

• I wanted to sign up for cool life tracking website Gyroscope, but early access is only for Facebook users.

The Conclusion

Anyone I’m close friends with on Facebook I can text, Snapchat, Tweet, or Skype. Anyone who regularly posts awesome photos will probably also put them on Instagram or their blog or Flickr. Any news that I missed I could have gotten from broadening my news horizons. However, social logins and birthday reminders are a few conveniences on Facebook that have made my life easier. Even though there are other outlets to several aspects of Facebook, I still can’t seem to hit delete. And that’s why my relationship with Facebook isn’t over (yet).