According to new survey data from the Pew Research Center (June 2018), a substantial number of Facebook users (42 percent) have stepped back from daily activity and engagement. This stands in marked contrast to a March Pew survey that found 74 percent of users visited daily and most of them (51 percent) went to the site multiple times a day.
The more recent Pew survey also found that 26 percent said that they deleted the Facebook app from their phones. All this suggests that a substantial minority or even a majority of Facebook users have to some degree disengaged from the platform in the past year.
It’s not entirely clear from the survey discussion whether there’s any overlap between those “taking a break” and those who deleted the app. In addition, a majority (54 percent) also reported adjusting their privacy settings.
To some extent, the survey data are contradicted but also validated by Facebook’s Q2 results. The company reported that its daily active user metrics were flat in North America and declined in Europe.
A Reuters poll in May, just before the new Pew survey, found that 74 percent used Facebook daily and 44 percent had changed privacy settings. A separate Reuters poll in March found declining user trust in Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
It’s worth noting that there is often a difference between what people report in surveys and how they actually behave. It’s also not clear if any of those who deleted the app might have reinstalled it. Some of the break-takers also might be reflecting disapproval of Facebook rather than accurately reporting their actual behavior.
The totality of the survey evidence argues that many users have become ambivalent and less engaged. Over time, a less engaged Facebook population could affect how ads perform on the platform. Several agencies and campaign platforms have reported advertiser budget growth has stagnated on Facebook and accelerated on Instagram.
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