Study: perceived addiction brings fleeing Facebook users back

Ditching Facebook is something many users have dreamed of, but ultimately failed to do. Some take a break, only to log back in before their goal date. Others suspend their account, planning to leave the social network for good, only to reactivate it later on. Why? That's a question Cornell University researchers have answered, with a recent study finding four factors that bring users back.

The researchers used data from the 99 Days Of Freedom campaign, which encourages Facebook users to ditch the social network for 99 days. The campaign is presented as a response to Facebook's mood experiment, aiming to find out how the service affects its users' happiness. Many took on the challenge, but of course only some were successful.

Survey data from those unsuccessful users revealed four reasons why people return. The first among them is perceived addition — users who viewed the social network as being a habitual or addictive activity were more inclined to come back. One user touched on the habitual part of the service, saying that his fingers would automatically move to type "Facebook" when he opened his web browser.

Other reasons include how Facebook was used: those who use the social network to shape others' impression of them were more likely to return, though surveillance concerns had the opposite effect, helping users stay away. As well, depressed or otherwise less-than-positive moods were also a contributing factor to coming back.

Thinking about how social networks factor into one's social life could bring a user back, but having an alternative platform (Twitter, for example) helped users keep away. Ultimately, users who returned were observed to make a compromise, changing how they used the network: friends lists were whittled down, the mobile apps were uninstalled, and/or the amount of time spent on the platform decreased.

SOURCE: Cornell University