15-million former Facebook users in the US have left the platform since the end of 2017 and the majority of those leaving the platform falling in the 12 to 34-year-old demographic according to the latest figures from Edison Research. The social media platform is still the most-used in the country, with around 61-percent in the 12-and-older category using Facebook.
Use has conversely increased among older demographics, including the 55-and-older group and most who have left are said to have migrated to Facebook-owned Instagram. 80-percent of US residents over the age of 12 are still using either Twitter, Snapchat, or Facebook.
That means that only a small number of those who are leaving are abandoning social media outright but the number still isn't good news for the platform itself as it represents approximately 6-percent of the nation's population. This is also the second year in a row that Edison has noted a decrease in overall US users.
Where's the discrepancy?
The figures reported by Edison Research are in stark contrast to the figures reported in Facebook's own earnings call for the fourth quarter and full year 2018, reported in late January. That shouldn't be too surprising since that report accounts for all Facebook activity around the world and more loosely defines who a 'user' is, according to Edison Research president Larry Rosin.
More directly, the research firm tried to determine whether or not people in the US are actively using Facebook rather than how many people might visit the site or open the app once or twice in a given timeframe.
According to Facebook's numbers, the company's user base grew by nine percent in terms of both daily and monthly active users, year-over-year in 2018. The former figure fell in at 1.52 billion while the latter number registered at 2.32 billion. A decrease of 15 million users from that is minuscule -- although not insignificant -- but Edison Research and the social media giant aren't using the same metrics so a direct comparison doesn't reveal much.
Facebook also noted that approximately 2.7 billion users participate at least once per month on its other apps, including Instagram in its most recent report.
The "why" is less clear
Determining exactly why users in the US are apparently removing themselves from Facebook's primary service and platform is not a straightforward affair. Facebook's internally recorded figures have continued on their growth trajectory in spite of an abundance of negative press about the company stemming from its many missteps and breaches over the past two years. That's also in spite of apparently less scandalous speculation about the company's role in election tampering and an apparent disdain for user privacy.
Because several secondary social media platforms are being operated under Facebook's business, including Instagram and Snapchat, the decrease in figures reported by Edison Research is unlikely to impact its practices. As noted above, many who are leaving the platform are heading to Facebook's other properties as an alternative.
All of that seems to indicate that the drop in users is more closely related to a natural decrease in interest than to any gaffe on the part of the company.
Facebook's reported growth globally, occurring at the same time, could be attributed to its steady increase to efforts in emerging markets and resourced allocated toward slimmed down variants of its multiple applications for use on low-speed networks and low-data plans.