Anas Aloudat, Ons Al-Shamaileh, Katina Michael
Facebook is the most pervasive social network in the world. While, we would commonly expect everyone who has access to the Internet to use Facebook, some people have chosen not to join or to opt-out of its services. This qualitative study is an effort to understand the justifications that drive their decision. Based on in-depth semi-structured interviews, several recurring reasons were identified for Facebook non-use. Some results obtained are truly consistent with previous research. These include perceived security issues and safety risks, absence of trust, privacy concerns, influence of important others, lack of control, uselessness, availability of alternatives, lack of interest, and inappropriate content. However, some findings, such as one’s attitude toward the Facebook company and online social connectedness, diverge from previously published work. There is also enough evidence in the results to support the existence of additional contributing reasons for the rejection of Facebook that have not been directly reported before. These include religious beliefs, influence of culture, and a concern toward one’s information being available online; a point that we do put forward for further inquiry.
Keywords: Facebook. Privacy. Use context. Religion. Culture. Social influence
Within a year of Facebook being initiated in February 2004 (Phillips 2007), researchers and mainstream media started to criticize this social network for a variety of reasons. We can find inspiration in studies as early as 2005 in which privacy concerns and security risks about Facebook were raised for the first time, especially with respect to its policies. See for examples, Buckman (2005), Gross and Acquisti (2005), Jones and Soltren (2005), Montermini (2005), and Sealy (2005). And yet the continuous hype surrounding social media and its emerging attractive offshoots meant that people just kept using Facebook; favoring to outweigh its benefits over all possible negatives. Notwithstanding this fact, few researchers have paid attention to another pertinent fact, yet less apparent, regarding the decision of some members of society not to fall prey to the groupthink by joining the hype. Those researchers have taken on the work of investigating the reasoning behind this divergent thinking. Having said that, we also believe now is the time to revisit the reasons that make some people proactively go against the norms in denouncing the conventional wisdom of using Facebook.
Baker and White (2011) investigated the reasons behind not using social networking sites in general. The researchers showed the motives behind non-use were safety concerns, the availability of other communication platforms, lack of motivation, and the perception that all social media are just a waste of time (Baker and White 2011). In regard to Facebook in particular, Baumer et al. (2013) provided a set of reasons for not using it. They explained that respondents were mainly concerned about their privacy from two perspectives: individuals did not want to reveal their personal information to the public, neither wanted Facebook employers to potentially have access to that information (Baumer et al. 2013). These concerns were embodied, as reported by Rainie et al. (2013), such that 20% of Facebook users in the US used this social network only once but no longer use it, and other 61% of users voluntarily take a break from it at one time, for a period up to several weeks at times.
Another study investigated the reasons for quitting Facebook in Japan, and revealed that users left Facebook mainly because of perceived security risks, the requirements for declaring the real name, and the complexity of the user interface (Acar et al. 2012). Turan (2013) also stated in her study privacy concerns, perceiving Facebook as an unnecessary tool that wastes time, and distrust in virtual relationships as the main reasons behind not using Facebook. In their study about teachers and Facebook, Dindar and Akbulut (2014) found Facebook to be a time waster, the cause of regular disruption by others, a medium with serious privacy concerns, and as a reason for pressures and additional stress from the life partner, especially when coping with a break up.
Some other studies focused on examining the psychological characteristics of Facebook quitters. For example, Stieger et al. (2013) explained that quitters were more concerned about their privacy, had high digital addiction rates, and were more conscientious than non-quitters. Similarly, Ryan and Xenos (2011) showed that being conscientious, socially lonely, and shy were the characteristics of non-users. Another study by Sheldon (2012) compared the personal traits of Facebook users with those of non-users, and revealed that users were more socially active than their non-user counterparts. The same study also showed that non-users tend to be more sensation seeking, lonely, and shy than users, and for those who are shy and lonely Facebook does not truly substitute other traditional communication channels (Sheldon 2012).
Most of previous research did identify privacy as a key concern for the people who chose to continue using Facebook (Baumer et al. 2013; Christofides et al. 2009; Deuker 2012; Fox and Moreland 2015; Fusco et al. 2012). For example, a study by Christofides et al. (2009) indicated that users regularly update their privacy settings; driven by concerns about the privacy of their profiles. Unable to have full control over the profile was also another concern to Facebook users. Indeed, Fox and Moreland (2015) stated that users are always in a worrisome state since they do not perceive full control on all aspects of their personal information; to display or hide whatever they desire from their social network. This is particularly true when enabling the newsfeed option in Facebook where others can easily access a user’s information; leading users to perceive less control over the profile and, as a result, heightened their privacy concerns (Hoadley et al. 2010). Additionally, Fox and Moreland (2015) stated that users were frustrated by the fact that Facebook control how private personal information is shared, especially when Facebook makes users’ information searchable over the internet.
Security is another concern that was significantly reported about Facebook. For instance, Bilge et al. (2009) demonstrated a scenario where hackers easily gained access to a user’s personal information through automated crawling and theft of identity on social media. Zheleva and Getoor (2009) showed how privacy attacks, with a mixture of public and private profiles, could bypass the security settings in social networks. The researchers also established the evidence on how surprisingly easy it was to infer private information on social media from friendship links and group membership information that are usually not hidden to the public (Zheleva and Getoor 2009).
To the users of social media, inappropriate content was also another major issue as reported by Butler (2010), Catanzaro (2011), Shelton and Skalski (2014), and Fox and Moreland (2015). In their study, Shelton and Skalski (2014) contended that Facebook does contain negative content, even inappropriate sometimes. Individuals did report feeling disgusted about what they saw on Facebook (Fox and Moreland 2015). More importantly, threats and bullying can occur on Facebook because of its ill-suited content (Catanzaro 2011; Weir et al. 2011), and perceptions of danger or vulnerability as a result of this cyberthreat and cyberbullying can force some people who are truly worried about their safety to stop using Facebook.
To the best of our knowledge, we noted that only few studies in the literature of social media have considered comprehending the reasons for quitting or for not joining Facebook. Accordingly, a subsequent careful investigation into why people do not use Facebook is necessary to bring more clarity to the issue, ascertain previously reported results, identify additional contributing reasons, and convey the report of this group of individuals who are turning their back to one of the most popular phenomena in human history.
2. Research Method
Convenience sampling of interviews was carried out in Jordan and United Arab Emirates (UAE); with those subjects who are close at hand and accessible (Berg 2009). As suggested by Johnson (2001), we identified subsequent interviewees by initially asking our contacts about anyone they knew who did not use or quit Facebook at the time. We also asked for their assistance in contacting those people. Later, we followed the non-probability technique of snowball sampling (Patton 2015), whereby an interviewee referred future interviewees from among his or her acquaintances for us to contact. The snowballing process was repeated when necessary and ceased when we felt we had attained the sufficient number of interviews; when the gathered data began to show no signs for a new evidence. This was indeed satisfied after the fifteenth interview. In doing this, we followed the data saturation strategy as suggested by Creswell (2009), in which the collected data can be regarded as adequate when it no longer sparks new insights or reveals new ideas. Nevertheless, we did carry out additional two interviews to confirm that data saturation was met indeed.
In total, seventeen full-length semi-structured interviews (14 females and 3 males) were conducted face-to-face between July 2015 and October 2016. The interviews were administered by the researchers themselves, and each lasted between 45 to 90 minutes. Interviews were in English (total of 12) or in Arabic (total of 5) depending on the preference of the interviewee. The age of respondents was between 19 – 45 years, originally from different countries. The demographic characteristics of the interviewees are depicted in Table 1.
As it is already reported, it took us more than a year to carry out the interviews since it was rather difficult to find individuals who did not use Facebook at the time, but also to gain their approval to participate. In addition, follow-ups had to be made with some respondents on several occasions, which all contributed to this unintended period for data collection.
Table 1: Demographics of the interviewees
2.1. Strategy of data analysis
Once an individual was identified, we approached him or her with the purpose of our research. Upon acceptance, a date was set for the interview and an audio-recorded session took place at the designated time. Recording was granted only after an explicit consent from the interviewee. Each audio-recorded interview was transcribed verbatim, and subsequently translated into English if necessary. Transcripts were systematically edited to correct possible errors of a typographical nature, and finally put to be analyzed qualitatively.
The process of qualitative content analysis focused on the identification of recurring concepts, patterns, or beliefs of a salient theme within the transcripts, and the attempt to establish support for the emerging theme from the data itself (Miles and Huberman 1994).We purposefully did not develop a coding taxonomy prior to the interviewing process since a major disadvantage of a predefined coding system it deflects the attention away from an uncoded category and neglects tacit forms of knowledge in a respondent’s answer which were inconceivable to codify in advance, but yet potentially significant (Silverman 2006). We succeeded to bring a thematic structure to our mass of data through continuous cycles of examination on the data. In each cycle, we sought to gauge the same textual data from another potential perspective, just to consider all possible meanings. Later, the text that certainly held within a specific concept or idea was put to discussion within a given theme (Marshall and Rossman 1999; Patton 2015). Conforming quotations from the transcripts were then manually grouped under relevant themes, and supporting literature was identified to validate the inclusion of these quotations in the narrative. The theme was named in a way that adequately overarches the thread of the theme itself, but also permits further meaningful interpretation to what was already acknowledged from the analysis.
2.2. Limitations of the research method
The small sample size (i.e., 17 interviews) can be considered a limitation of this study. However, the majority of qualitative methodologists do not agree on an explicit set of standards for sample size but certainly agree on the importance of reaching saturation (Marshall et al. 2013) which was indeed achieved as stated earlier. It is true that larger sample size is always desired to increase the validity of the results, but unfortunately this cannot be essentially achieved due to the inherited limitation in the qualitative nature of the convenient sampling itself. That being said, the findings of this research are not be generalizable to all the population who do not use Facebook. One notable limitation of this research though is that the researchers did not assess the magnitude of gender, ethnicity, age, marital status, or other demographics on the attained results; it is unclear how, or even if, the demographics of the respondents contributed differently to the given results. As a result, parallel studies are needed to ascertain if the findings hold under different demographic factors.
3. Findings and Discussion
Irrespective of whether we agree or disagree with the people who decided not to use Facebook, we strongly believe that their divergent decision from the expected is valued and should be rightfully reported. Accordingly, the obtained findings from the interviewees are summarized in Table 2, and a representative narrative of these findings along with proper discussion are presented in the subsequent sections.
Table 2: Reasons of why some people do not use Facebook
No. Reason: Descriptive Finding
1 Distrust: Uncertainty in the expectations or beliefs a person has about the trustworthiness of Facebook.
2 Weak security perceptions: Perceptions of the vulnerability of Facebook to cyberthreats and malicious code.
3 Social influence: Negative opinions of important others about Facebook which influence a person’s decision not to join Facebook.
4 Undesirable information and context of use: Adverse effects of specific information dimensions found on Facebook, such as meaning, nature, or origin, and their negative contexts of use.
5 Privacy concerns: Negative perceptions of potential violations to the privacy of personal information and the extent such privacy is truly protected on Facebook.
6 Uselessness: Absence of observed or sufficient benefits of Facebook.
7 Difficult to use: Inconvenient use-interface of Facebook that requires effort and time to learn and to use.
8 Lack of control: A perception describes a person’s belief that the outcomes when using Facebook are not contingent on one’s own choices.
9 Infophobia: Acute fears of the presence of personal information and one’s traces on the Web, including on Facebook.
10 Influence of culture: Negative cultural views about Social media that necessarily refrain some of its constituents from joining Facebook.
11 Religious beliefs: Beliefs that shape the decision of an individual not to use Facebook as a note of respect to his or her religion.
12 Negative attitude toward Facebook: A subjective evaluation of the individual toward favoring not to use Facebook.
3.1. It is a trust issue
Trust is one of the main pillars for a relationship between two entities. It is with trust that the interaction between the two can happen. The intended interaction between a person and Facebook proactively requires a degree of certainty in the expectations or beliefs a person’s built overtime about the trustworthiness of Facebook itself (Mayer et al. 1995). However, this is not the case for some people regarding Facebook; a respondent explained “Facebook is owned by people who are into business. Look at what they are doing, they have bought WhatsApp and now we are forced to accept the terms of WhatsApp. So, it is business. Do I trust them? No!”.
Facebook is essentially more than a business and a set of enabling technologies and applications, there are also people behind it who undeniably play an important role in forming the perceptions of the individual’s trust about Facebook itself; a respondent elucidates: “I do not trust the people behind Facebook, and I do not trust the technology itself”.
An interesting point of view is that some people do not use Facebook because they do not trust its policies that define what can be posted and what cannot. As stipulated by one of the interviewees: “I do not trust Facebook, because it is kind of political. They always shut down pages about the Middle East. [Facebook is] very biased…. There is no freedom of speech”.
3.2. Security on Facebook: The negative reflections
Social networking sites have become soft targets for committing heinous acts and harm to individuals (Sharma et al. 2013). Several interviewees did echo negative reflections about security on Facebook. For instance, two of our respondents stated: “Facebook has inappropriate security settings, including password strength. There is always a chance for a hacker to steal my personal information”, and “I do not think I can control everything on Facebook. There is always also the possibility of hacking. This is a thought that it always concerned me that someone might be able to hack my account and steal my private information and photos.” For another interviewee, security on Facebook was quite concerning: “Too much risk to have a Facebook account. There is a chance of hacking your account. The hacker can then use our information and photos and include other nasty photos and bad things on a fake account under my name”. Similar level of deep concerns was also echoed in another respondent’s statement: “I used to have an account on Facebook, but it was hacked. I started to receive phone calls from overseas, from people who I do not know. You know, for a girl it is too inconvenient to have her mobile phone number known to anyone in such a way”.
Weir et al. (2011) reported it was estimated that at least 20% of users have been exposed at some point to a malware or malicious code on Facebook. This fact was present in the statement of a respondent when he said: “I have heard that some people that you do not know can send you a link through Facebook. Once you click the link it will hack or steal all your information and photos. I do not feel that the security of Facebook is high”.
Facebook is mainly grounded on Web 2.0 technologies, and since no technology is perfect a potential failure to the application of technology can and will happen. One of the interviewees who is a professor in information security confirmed: “Facebook is just a combination of programs, and all programs have some bugs. You cannot avoid bugs in programs. People can discover the vulnerabilities and can do it [hacking]. If you want to keep your privacy a hundred percent secure just do not use Facebook”.
Although Facebook does attempt to provide the strongest measures to secure its users, the systems and websites of well-known corporates, which also strived to provide the strongest possible security guarantees to their users had been hacked before. Sony and Yahoo! are just two renown examples (Inkster 2015; Senarath et al. 2017). Guarantees and world-class security measures from Facebook do not seem to be enough to convince some people to join: “With many hackers nowadays you cannot protect your privacy unless you just prevent yourself to be there [on Facebook]. It is not about limiting people what to see and what not, it is about people who can hack”, a respondent confirmed.
In general, the perceptions of security on Facebook were rather negative in the comments of the respondents; to mention a few: “I do not trust any social media including Facebook. Anyone can hack, anyone can use it in a bad way”; “Even if I am good with technology, there is always people who are more professional and can access my information and alter it negatively”; “In social media platforms you can hack anything”; and “Most systems can be breached. I am into information security and I know that Facebook is not very secured”.
Potential cyberthreat, because of weak security perceptions on Facebook, was strongly presented in a respondent’s answer who was really concerned about the safety of his family if they were using Facebook: “I want them [my family] to safeguard their private lives. I do not want their images to be shared or hacked. Once someone hack your account, that is it. Everything will be shared and sold”.
3.3. To join or not to join: That is the influence of others
Important others are those people who can influence a person’s decision. Those others can be a life partner, family member, friend, colleague, team member, or manager. Other terms have been used often interchangeably in the literature to describe the influence of important others, such as social influence, perceived norm, and subject norm (Venkatesh et al. 2003; Zolkepli and Kamarulzaman 2015). A classical definition of social influence is given be Ajzen (1991): “the perceived social pressure to perform or not to perform the behavior in question” (p. 188)(p. 188)(p. 188)(p. 188). People normally comply to the wishes, requests, or pressures of surrounding referents in order to feel more desired, to be loved or esteemed, to be uncritically accepted, to be communally discerned, or as servility to a specific social order (Dholakiaa et al. 2004; Rogers 1964).
The influence of important others was undoubtedly a factor to why some people have not joined Facebook or have stopped using Facebook. An interviewee expounded: “As the only girl in the family my parents did not encourage me to use Facebook because of possible problems”. The role of family was quite salient on the compliance behavior of another respondent as to quit Facebook: “My father influenced me to quit”.
Social influence can also stem from adhering to the general normative behavior of a society, not necessarily influenced by particular important individual, as avowed by one respondent: “I am from Kazakhstan. My friends and family do not use it [Facebook]. That is why I see there is no need for me to use it”.
But not everyone can be that susceptible to the normative status quo enforced by the reference others, or to the beliefs construed to be the norms in a given society, in relation to the use trends of a specific social media. Those individuals do not follow the trends one would expect them to, they just see things the way they should be (Kay et al. 2009); a respondent contemplated: “People used Facebook because it is trendy... They do not encourage themselves to read about it. No, we do not have this culture of learning the pros and cons, we do not have these beliefs that we have to be aware of something then to decide whether to use it or not”. Reasonably enough, we can attribute the dissent of some individuals who decided not to use Facebook as being more conscientious about the negative implications of Facebook than others. The argument is in line with previous research (Ryan and Xenos 2011; Stieger et al. 2013), and was eloquently expressed in a comment by an interviewee: “I felt that nothing was original, everyone was trying to copy a certain mind set, nothing of their own. It was not based on their personality, it is just a copy paste behavior”.
3.4. Dimensions of undesirability: Information, context of use, and other attributes
The context of use in Facebook basically describes what types of information is presented to its communities and under which circumstances these types take place (Satu and Teija 2012). Any given information may hold several dimensions, such as meaning, nature, quality, time, use, or origin (Boismenu and Beaudry 2004), and each of these dimensions may have varied negative or positive impact on, and understanding to different people. Facebook captures all types of information from the real world and presents them to its users. While a specific dimension of the captured information can actively promote people’s social interactions on Facebook, the dimension, or other dimensions of the same information, can forcefully repel people from interacting on Facebook; rendering this social media to be undesirable.
Several interviewees voiced negative opinions about the context in which Facebook can be used for. One of the respondents argued: “Because other people use Facebook negatively, like uploading very private pictures that they should have not uploaded, I do not use it”.
Another negative use of Facebook is articulated by an interviewee who said: “Males are using Facebook to brag in front of others that they know girls. Maybe these girls are just Facebook friends, but in front of his peers he pretends to have intimate affairs with all of them”. This notion was restated in another statement: “Facebook was the cause of fights between friends. For example, two friends fought why one of them had a girl he loves as a friend in his account”.
Another undesirable context of use on Facebook, as contended by some interviewees, lies in the creation of emotional deception, specifically when the true identity of an individual cannot be known for certain; an interviewee explained this deception further: “A reason why I do not use Facebook is the issue of fake accounts. For example, I know a guy who created a fake account with the photo of some girl, and then requested the friendship of a guy on Facebook. The guy fell for this trick and the guys had fun time playing with his feelings. Imagine this poor guy spent two months thinking that he is living a love story”.
Self-deceptive emotions can also happen on Facebook, resulting from beliefs or subjective goals a person strives to aggrandize through self-presentation in order to reach a more comfortable state-of-mind (De Sousa 1988). Indeed, self-deception is a dispositional tendency to think of oneself in a favorable light, either to reach a higher level of self-satisfaction or to be socially desired (Barrick and Mount 1996). One of the respondents did discern this form of self-emotional deception on Facebook: “Some people as part of their personal image brag on how many friends he or she has on Facebook”.
Former researchers did identify self-deception as one the two constructs of social desirability, with the other being impression management; a deliberate attempt to overestimate or distort one's responses to create a favorable impression on others (Barrick and Mount 1996; Paulhus 1984; Paulhus and Reid 1991). An interviewee confirmed the existence of the negative social desirability on Facebook by asserting: “I feel that Facebook is for showing people what you are doing or just showing yourself in a specific way. It is not necessary to be you as you, but the way you want to show people how you are. What I see from people that they show something different than their reality. Different than their personality. I read once on a newspaper about a German wife, she said that when I read my husband’s posts on Facebook I wish to be his wife. That means that he is just lying. So, what is the purpose of reading people’s lies? I do not have time for that”. Another statement from an interviewee restated the previous: “Facebook is for showing off… People just want to show themselves that they are fashionistas living in a city like Dubai”. This false or inflated representation of oneself also echoed several times in other quotes: “I sense that people tend to hide much of their real personality on Facebook that do not really reflect the real who of that person”; and “Whatever they [people who live in Dubai] display on their Facebook profiles it is like they are living in a bliss place. So, it does not reflect reality. They are living in bad conditions and what they are displaying to people is different”.
Turning the discussion to those opinions that perceived Facebook as facilitating a haven for terrorism groups; to gain sympathy or to promote their radical ideologies. A comment from a respondent reflected this supposedly context of use: “Some people, such as ISIS, might use Facebook to plan for destructive actions where they utilize social media to coordinate terrorism attacks on innocents”. The former statement might be wrong or overestimated, however, in his article, The Media Strategy of ISIS, Farwell (2014) did support this line of reasoning and contended that terrorism groups are successfully employing social-media to advance their strategic objectives. Other researchers do agree with Farwell’s argument, e.g., Hannigan (2014), Nissen (2014), and Stampler (2017).
In this study, the good intention is there that Facebook and other social media are striving at their best to prevent and combat the existence of extremism and terrorism on their platforms, but the web is almost infinite and information on it cannot be controlled to the full extent. Certainly, our interviewees did agree to contemplate the role of Facebook as only a mere neutral medium; as a respondent explained: “I cannot say that Facebook has negatives or positives. It depends on the way this social media is used by people. They who create the positives and the negatives, not Facebook itself”; and “There are positive sides of Facebook, but there are also negative sides. For example, Facebook is a platform for spreading false news and rumors, but it was also a freedom of speech platform during a series of uprisings and anti-government protests in several Arab countries, and a gateway for transmitting the news of rebels, specifically from inside closed Syria”, another respondent reaffirmed. Indeed, the success of opening closed regimes, spiking online revolutionary conversations, and accelerating democratization movements have been certainly associated with Facebook and other social media during the political upheavals in several Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa, to what was later termed as the Arab Spring (Gerbaudo 2012; Howard et al. 2011; Howard and Hussain 2013; Khondker 2011; Lim 2012; Wolfsfeld et al. 2013).
3.5. Physics of privacy: The negative forces of concerns
We dearly value privacy because it protects the personal life from being completely transparent to others. A human is born with privacy as a fundamental natural mechanism that shields and protects his inside world from the outside world. It is yet when one perceives others overwhelm the self-defined world that a person feels a Freudian Unheimlichkeit, a concern that clouds and troubles the comfortable bordering of his or her world, a fear to lose control over own space, to turn into an open and exposed space (Houtum 2011). Michael and Michael (2009) commented in their study on how the sense of losing one’s privacy does forfeit a critical component of the personal identity, with even the potential for personality disorders to develop.
Privacy is impacted over time and/or over space through sudden or gradual influence of external forces or internal beliefs. Such impact, when perceived negatively, would certainly unbalance the comfort of one’s state of mind and espouse the advent of a concern in one’s life. With respect to Newton's Law of Inertia, the law is transposed to describe the physics of privacy as: A privacy at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced concern.
Previous research overtly marked the immense importance of privacy to people in social media contexts (Baumer et al. 2013; Christofides et al. 2009; Deuker 2012; Dindar and Akbulut 2014; Ellison et al. 2011; Fox and Moreland 2015; Fusco et al. 2012; Rainie et al. 2013; Taddicken 2014; Tan et al. 2012; Turan 2013). Our research findings are no different. Interviewees explicitly articulated their strong concerns about the degree privacy is really protected on Facebook; their worrying of the blurry demarcation between a trusted friend, an acquaintance, and stranger on social media, as also argued by Gilbert and Karahalios (2009); a respondent expressed: “As a girl I have my own private moments. If someone from my relatives or family send me a request to add them on Facebook, I cannot say no. This means that I cannot post private things to my closest friends or share any special moments with them without everyone else sees it. Therefore, I do not see Facebook as useful of connecting true friends together”. Similar arguments resonated in other statements as well: “I know that companies can know what I like and what I do not, what activities I do in my life, where I eat, where is my location now, who the people I hang usually with, who are my friends”; “I think people in Facebook are doing what they can to protect the privacy of information. But, for me it is not enough as I do not trust the people who can access my information and then share it without my permission”; and “For sure your privacy is compromised when your information is there [on Facebook]”.
Privacy is being violated on social media, as stated by a respondent: “Yes, I have actually seen this once, a girl that I know had a picture on Facebook, and I do not know how I then saw an advertisement using her picture”. Certainly, no one will be comfortable with the idea that personal information is collected for a purpose but can be used retrospectively for other unconsented secondary purposes. This type of unauthorized secondary use of information is one of the classical privacy concerns discerned in literature (Smith et al. 1996). The perception of losing control over what is naturally yours does certainly augment one’s sense of violation and unrest. Our respondents who do not use Facebook sturdily expressed the aforementioned concern in their comments: “The main intention for those people [Facebook] is to generate money. So, even if they say that they do not use your personal information, believe me, it is a very big lie. Companies make very big statements that they do respect privacy, but they respect just money. In the whole world, it is just you who can respect your privacy”; “I think that all these websites can use my information for other purposes”; “They [Facebook] can sell your information, or in a way they can sell you. All your personal data can be sold to collect money”; and “I do not believe these people [Facebook] who can sell your information at any cost. They will not let you know, but they will do it. It is a money-making business. Why shall they stop receiving money? They will never do”.
From what we have presented so far, individuals who do not use Facebook might be make conscientious choices about using Facebook than others. But perhaps their thoughtful decision not to use Facebook may stems from a deeper concern that social networking sites are sharing information with governments; an idea that actually holds some account as stated by Bauman et al. (2014), Deibert (2014), Lyon (2014), and van Dijck (2014), based on the revelations of Edward Snowden. Indeed, Snowden’s message even echoed in WikiLeaks’s co-founder Julian Assange in his cry of condemnation against Facebook when he called this social network, ‘‘The most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented’’ (Emmett 2011; Lee 2012; Witte 2013).
Interviewees were very clear in rejecting Facebook, perhaps influenced by the aforementioned idea; several respondents stated: “I know that Facebook information is used by law enforcement agencies. This is one of the reasons of Facebook existence”, “Without spending billions of dollars, intelligence agencies can now pinpoint a person easily on a Facebook”; “Yes. I think that everything on Facebook is monitored by governments”; “I think that my information can be accessed by intelligence agencies, so no matter what privacy settings the owners of Facebook provide, the information will be shared with these agencies”; “They [Facebook] will share that information at any instance, any government that asks for the information”; “There are a lot of speculations about social media giving out private information to governments and police for their own benefit”; and “I do trust people behind Facebook, however, there is certain terms and conditions with the governments which are contradictory to protecting your privacy, since they do have access to our accounts, so it is like being vulnerable”.
Some people made their decision not to use Facebook based on a subjective appraisal that revered privacy above social media benefits. But, what can explain the paradoxical behavior of the rest who continue to use Facebook despite concerns? Perhaps the benefits for them outweigh all the risks associated, or maybe “privacy is no longer a social norm” as once stated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg when he justified the change of privacy settings to allow anyone to see or search for a name, date of birth, gender, or other information on Facebook (Johnson 2010 ). Nevertheless, such assumption from Mr. Zuckerberg seems to misunderstand the value of privacy. For most people, especially the Millennials and Post-Millennials (i.e., Generation Z), craving for the online presence is simply part of who you are, of one’s virtual identity, yet, privacy is still a strong social norm to them, and the online privacy paradox can be explained in that social networking sites have become so rooted in the lives of individuals that they must keep disclosing personal information to keep their virtual identity alive despite the fact that these networks may not provide full or adequate privacy controls (Barnes 2006; Blank et al. 2014). However, a breaking point at which issues and concerns related to privacy supersedes all the benefits Facebook provides can eventually drive the user to commit a social identity suicide by stop using this social media (Woollaston 2013).
3.6. Facebook may tell no useful story
Skepticism toward the affordance of Facebook is another factor imparted through the interviews. Services offered by Facebook did not prove beneficial to non-users or for those who already quit, as several respondents stated: “I used to have a Facebook account, but I did not see the importance of using Facebook”; “Useless, there are other ways to communicate with the people I know”; “I do not see any advantages out of Facebook”; “In regard to my friends, I can see them almost daily or call them without the need to use Facebook to connect with them”; “Most of the content found on Facebook is useless. I do not see any benefit out of it. If I sense that I can benefit others and get benefits from Facebook, then yes [I would use it]”; “I used to spend almost 5 hours daily on Facebook, but I discovered that I spent the time being courteous to everyone by commenting on each and every post made. I found that to be a waste of time and I can spend my time on more useful things”; and “If I see more people using Facebook for useful things, then I would definitely consider using it”.
Another reason Facebook is deemed useless is because alternatives are actually considered. Several interviewees compared Facebook with other popular social media communities and platforms, and made their decision not to use Facebook: “Because we use Instagram and WhatsApp to communicate, so I see that there is no need to use Facebook”; “I may consider joining professional social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, which offer services that Facebook does not”; “When Facebook came out, I looked into it and said it does this and does that, so I said LinkedIn can do this for me if I really want to connect with people professionally”; “Facebook is mostly to know about other people; Instagram is a little bit different. You can see other things like photography, cooking classes. So, I am not interested to know about other people personal things”, several respondents asserted.
Finally, an admittedly interesting point of view is perceiving the novelty effect of Facebook to be wearing off; as no longer being able to compete with the features that competitors provide; two respondents contemplated: “I feel like it is [ Facebook] getting outdated”; and “I have Instagram and Snapchat. They are much different than Facebook; they are interactive. I feel Instagram and snapchat are quicker and somehow represent real life moments. Something that you see on real time and based on real life; not fabricated or over-analyzed, such as the posts on Facebook”.
We may safely argue here that this is one of the reasons why Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012 (Hill 2012) and later WhatsApp in February 2014 (Frier 2014). Even as a giant in the world of social media, Facebook as a business needs also to recreate itself overtime and evolve to continue.
3.7. It is not easy to find my way around on Facebook!
A respondent revealed that the too inconvenient use-interface of Facebook forced him to quit. This is a finding which corresponds to the results of previous research by Acar et al. (2012). Convenience design is the perception concerning the level of effort required to deal with a system, application, or technology. If a person needs time and effort to learn how to use a specific technology, then a sufficient consequence would be not to use it or to search for an easier alternative; a respondent affirmed: “The privacy settings of Facebook are very intricate; you have to research a lot to find out how to protect your profile and certain aspects. It is very hard. I think that was one of the main reasons of people quitting. It was so difficult to use”.
3.8. Facebook make me lose control
Perceived control describes a person’s belief and expectation that the outcomes of a situation are contingent on one’s own choice. Seeman (1983) argued that of all the perceptions about oneself, control over one's own life aspects may be the most important. When the belief or expectation of a situation is not met as desired, or as anticipated, then it can lead to the perception of having little or no control over the situation (Ross and Mirowsky 2006). Indeed, lack of perceived control had been proven to have the power to create negative pressures against the mind and behavior of the person, particularly in the form of higher levels of strain, stress, or anxiety (Spector and O'Connell 1994).
Perceived lack of control typifies those individuals who used Facebook and quit because they sensed a failure to govern what they believe to be theirs. One of Facebook quitters from our interviewees explained: “I had weak control over my account where I cannot change all the aspects of it”. Other interviewees shared similar views about control and lack of control over personal information on Facebook: “If I perceive to have full control over all my information in Facebook, then I would have used it”; “The control which is given to us is up to a certain extent. The main control is with the admin people”; “No matter what my personal information is being saved on their server and I do not have control over it”; and “Even with your profile photo you cannot control whether or not to be shown to everyone”.
Another relevant point of discussion is controlling the retention time of personal information on Facebook. According to its policy, Facebook does not actually delete any information, such as posts or photos from their servers, rather the company merely makes them invisible to users (Buchmann 2013; Wischenbart et al. 2012). One interviewee was aware of this fact and shared his concern about it: “I deleted my account in 2011. More than 5 years ago. But I still have doubts that they have really removed my information from their databases. I think my information is still there; my email address, my pictures, my date of birth, my name, my friends at that time, my contacts are still there”.
Finally, it is a fact that social media is about how people share their feelings, discussions, and experiences with their communities. But the irony in that, the more they share the more they become deprived of self-power to control what was really theirs; a respondent contemplated: “It is a bit contradictory, you are trying to share yourself on social media platforms, and at the same side you are trying to restrict people not to view what you share”.
3.9. I do not want to exist in the digital world
Although somewhat controversial, a statement from one of the interviewee’s suggested the existence of a certain type of fear toward being online. In such case, a person’s beliefs extend to being afraid of the presence of one’s information on the internet and for creating any traces of oneself online regardless the nature of context or use. We do discern that fear of online presence has been described before in the literature, but all reported results were associating fear to a potential adverse outcome of some online activity or interaction. For example, Chen and Chen (2007) and Waiyahong (2014) explained the fear of students from online environments when the web is used for learning purposes. Cassell and Cramer (2008) argued that fear of victimization, or from online predators, has been touted as a reason that restricts females from being active in the digital world. Other researchers related the fear of some individuals to risks associated with interactions of financial nature within online business environments (Asher 1999; Kierkegaard 2008; Trifu 2012; Wong et al. 2009). Another specific type of fear related to the online world is termed cyberphobia; the perturbation of an individual from a specific technology as perceived very hard to use (Joseph and Stone 2005). People, especially the elderly, start exploring the internet and social media by learning its concepts from scratch (Reisenwitz et al. 2007). They are very cautious while learning as they keep pondering whether they are using the web correctly, or if a pop-up or error message they encounter is a result of their possible wrongdoing (Saranow 2004). These concerns force those individuals to be nervous and in constant fear of the consequences of their online experience (Saranow 2004).
Brown (2005) coined the term infophobia to describe an attitude of fear toward the internet. Nevertheless, in our case, an interviewee who was 21 years old, who should have been a Post-Millennial native from the iGeneration, expressed real concerns about posting or writing anything about himself on the web, not particularly using the internet to browse for example: “I do not feel comfortable of my information being online where anyone can access it or read it”. When he was asked whether he would consider joining other social media platforms, for example LinkedIn for career advancement, his answer was “No.”. Nonetheless, he reluctantly admitted the fact that somehow it is inevitable for him to be present on the web despite his sincere will not to be so.
We argue this finding warrants further investigation, whether infophobia extends to encompass the qualms of an individual about the negative consequences of one’s information if being online, or it is maybe a rate example of a conscience decision to detach oneself completely from the immediacies of the cyberworld.
3.10. It is the influence of culture
Former research certainly examined the influence of social culture and national culture on why and how people use social media (Chu and Choi 2010; Goodrich and de Mooij 2014; Kaba and Osei-Bryson 2013; Lee-Won et al. 2014; Mandl 2010; Park et al. 2014; Suzuki and Takemura 2013; Tan et al. 2012). But unfortunately, the literature does not give much evidence on the role of culture in refraining people from using social media. Yet, as evident from our findings culture is indeed influencing the decision of some individuals not to use Facebook.
Our results indicate that gender inequality, as a cultural issue, does in fact contribute to creating a climate against the use of Facebook by females; several respondents confirmed this fact: “It is ok for a man to have a Facebook account, but not for a woman”; “Family perceptions that it is acceptable for a boy to have a Facebook account, but not for a girl”; and “People do not trust if a female puts her photo or talks to some male on Facebook. So, yes, the culture believes that females are untruthful person or creature”.
One of the interesting findings is that society’s constraints on females creates the need for a girl to adopt an alias or a pseudonym, if she is to exist on Facebook: “Because of the conservative nature of the culture, a girl here [in the Middle East] uses a fake name rather than her real name”, a respondent justified.
Another related point of discussion is that Facebook was perceived negatively as providing a means to commit acts by a female, that society does not usually accept: “Some find Facebook or any technology to be the way to do things that family would not accept for a girl”; and “We do things on the internet that we cannot do in public. For example, a boy and a girl use Facebook here in Jordan to talk and send photos for each other behind the back of their families. I do not think that this would happen in the Western countries. In our country, you know, the girl will always be the one to be blamed by family if they know that she is in love”.
Social culture also plays a role in conditioning the negatives about Facebook. An interviewee explained: “The way Facebook is used in Europe and USA creates more positives than negatives in comparison to Facebook use in the Middle East, because people here are using Facebook for dating purposes rather than to effectively communicate”. Another interviewee concurred: “People in the Western countries use Facebook for active communication regarding work or urgent issues maybe. The interactivity between people there are more positive toward fulfilling a task or following some kind of work. This is not the case here [in the Middle East]”. Lastly, we could not say it better than one of our respondents who shared what it is that makes culture influence people’s decisions toward Facebook: “The impact of the culture of society, and therefore the way the society is utilizing technology, have a direct impact of people’s acceptance of Facebook”.
3.11. Facebook is against my religious beliefs
Religious beliefs emerged in our findings as a determinant for choosing not to use Facebook. Religion was internalized in a respondent’s statement: “For me, it was a bit religious not to be on Facebook, because my religion says not to display or promote or show your personal life or whatever you are doing publicly, because of the fear of the evil eye. There is an example, the father of prophet Josef told him not to share his dream with his brothers because they were always jealous of him. His father told him because of the evil eye. So, I took it from there not to share my personal information online”.
It did appear previously that social media was a way to subvert the limitations faith places on some individuals; in environments where restrictions are imposed on a person’s way of life (Freitas 2017). On the contrary, within our group of respondents a note of respect to religion did mark its influence on their decision not to use Facebook: “Religion has an influence, especially for a woman who cannot post her picture without hijab [Islamic veil]. Religion allows me to open an account, but it restricts the extent of usage”; “I joined LinkedIn few months ago, but I am not a frequent user. I joined because I think there is nothing wrong in it like Facebook or Google+. You will not find pages that can hurt your religious feelings because LinkedIn is just for professionals. But, if I find some content that is against my religion on LinkedIn, then for sure I will not take even a second to quit it”; and “I quit using Facebook because of some religious reasons, and I do not have plans to join any social media platform, because you cannot control people hurting your religion. I do not want to see some person does something online that is religiously not correct for me; I will feel offended”, several interviewees commented.
Whatever role religion plays in shaping the perceptions of people about Facebook it seems there is a relationship of mutual impact between religion and culture on social media. Religion is essentially imprinted in many cultural settings of a society, just as ineluctably each culture has one or more religious dimension (Amor 2009). A respondent explained further: “It depends on the culture. Let us say, if I talk about Islamic culture, parents do not like their daughters to go online, and they do not like their daughters to put their pictures online, but its fine for their sons”.
3.12. I just don’t like Facebook!
Facebook is so important that even the former President Barack Obama called America ‘‘The Nation of Google and Facebook’’ (Lee 2012). But some people chose to reject this digital nation; it happens that not all people like the idea of being part of the Facebook Nation. A respondent elaborated: “I do not like to use Facebook. I do not like the human-less of Facebook. When you see someone, you know, you instantly know that he is angry or sad or happy, but on Facebook you cannot easily sense such feelings”.
The value of social connectedness in face-to-face relationships over online relationships on Facebook was strongly suggested in the respondents’ comments. This result, however, is not in line with some findings of former research (Grieve et al. 2013; Indian and Grieve 2014), where Facebook was found to provide a distinctive social outlet in which relationships can be developed and maintained. Nevertheless, we do agree with the view that social media can provide an alternative for social connectedness, but only for those individuals who experience social difficulties in communicating face-to-face (Campbell et al. 2006; Caplan 2006; Indian and Grieve 2014), or for those who require an online environment to fulfil a specific need or task that cannot be satisfied in person (Caplan 2006; Indian and Grieve 2014). The following statements support this view: “I do not like to socialize using Facebook. I do prefer face to face communication”; “People do not use Facebook for two reasons: either they are privacy-savvy, or you are into the traditional way of doing things. You just want to do things the old-fashioned way like using an album for photos for example”; and “It is not in my nature to know people online; I do prefer the old traditional way of knowing people face to face”.
The attitudes of respondents toward Facebook were almost negative. Facebook was perceived to have disadvantages more than advantages. Additionally, Facebook was considered a path that eventually leads to further troubles in one’s life: “For me, Facebook can be the reason for problems that I do not expect”; “I see the negatives are more than the positives. Therefore, I do not use it”; “Many people have become addicted to Facebook that even if they knew about the bad sides of Facebook they still use it”; and “Facebook is a gate for troubles. Many people post fake information. Many people become addicted to Facebook that they literally spend days on it. This is something unhealthy and stupid”, several interviewees commented.
Another related point involves people who do not use Facebook because they simply do not like to share their personal information online: “I do not like posting personal information online. I know that Facebook offers you options what to hide and what to show, but still, why posting my information online and know people online?”; “I do not like to share my personal things on social media, or whatever I am doing. Neither I am interested in someone else’s personal life”; and “I do not believe I need to share my wife’s and my children’ pictures with the whole world. I do not like it”.
Together, the viewpoints presented herein suggest that Facebook is not necessarily a central actor in the lives of all people. People lived before Facebook even existed and will live long after it; as one respondent summated: “I do not use social media that much …If I had a free time, then I would read a book or comic... I prefer to utilize my time in a different way”.
4. Implications of the Study and Conclusion
Facebook is indeed a phenomenon that has significantly reformed the way people communicate. It is therefore notable, though not entirely unexpected, that not all people around the world who have access to the Internet use Facebook. As of June 2017, it is estimated there was 3.9 billion Internet users worldwide (Miniwatts Marketing Group 2017), compared to 2.01 billion monthly active Facebook users at the same period (Facebook 2017). Based on the reasons we reported in this research a strong suggestion exists about those individuals who will invariably differ from the rest in their rejection of Facebook. In this work, we conducted a qualitative investigation on the reasons that influenced the decision of people not to join Facebook or to stop using it. While several reasons were previously reported in the literature for not using Facebook, and have most been identified in this research, e.g., privacy concerns, absence of trust, negative security perceptions, uselessness, lack of control, influence of important others not to use Facebook, availability of alternatives, lack of interest, inappropriate content, safety risks, continuous disruption while using Facebook, and the intricacy of Facebook’s privacy settings, we nonetheless reported sufficient evidence to suggest the existence of additional reasons that contribute to one’s rejection of Facebook. These include: religious beliefs, influence of culture, undesired contexts of use, negative attitude toward Facebook and social connectedness in general, and the existence of unreported-before form of phobia of one’s information being on the Web. Though the latter finding is not directly related to Facebook it still explains the qualms behind the decision of some individuals not to post anything about themselves on the Web, including Facebook.
The reported findings do provide a good area for further research, mainly investigating the impact of the reported reasons on the future of Facebook. Replication studies should go further to examine whether this social network will keep growing despite all the recent reported privacy incidents (Halpern 2018), come into a stabilized state in terms of its active number of users, or simply implode into the mass of other smaller social networks due to competition, insufficient attractiveness, regional alternatives, privacy issues, or other unforeseen factors.
Future studies should also consider the limitations of this research. First, the obtained results are to be considered preliminary until being replicated or affirmed. Second, it would be highly instructive to investigate the role of demographics in shaping the opinions of people not to use Facebook. Answers to these key questions will definitely augment our understanding in a way that we could not otherwise apprehend about the decision of some individuals not to interact with Facebook at all.
Finally, it should be noted at a general level that we did not try to underestimate the role Facebook as the true standard of what social media is about nowadays. On the contrary, our work comes as an acknowledgement to the immense importance of this social network, but also as a rightful recognition to the viewpoint of those individuals who came to perceive Facebook differently from the rest; a point of view we believe it should readily be heard, presented, and understood. Such presentation, as carried out in this study, is set to help in examining the validity of supposed norms of Facebook non-users, and in furthering our efforts to understand the true extent social media have in our lives today.
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Citation: Anas Aloudat, Ons Al-Shamaileh, Katina Michael, “Why some people do not use Facebook?”, Social Network Analysis and Mining > Issue 1/2019, https://www.springerprofessional.de/en/why-some-people-do-not-use-facebook/16707774