In December, Leah Ingram of New Hope, Pennsylvania, posted this message on her Facebook wall: "Facebook, you and your damn cookies: You are revealing to my family everything I've been buying online as presents! Curses, you grinch!"
Curses, indeed. As Facebook finds more ways to monetize the site, it is becoming more and more like a bad boyfriend: fun sometimes but increasingly self-serving, frustrating and untrustworthy.
So why do we keep using it? A study from Boston University found that the social network meets two primary human needs: the need to belong and the need for self-presentation.
But it can also wreak havoc. Here are four reasons why "unfriending" the social network might be the best thing you do in 2014:
Facebook’s privacy settings are controlled on an item-by-item basis. Cumbersome, the process puts you at risk of sharing something publicly you’d rather keep private—like where you live or visit—if you forget to check or uncheck a box. Facebook also has made it easier for people to find you. In the past, users had an option to keep their names hidden from searches, but that ability was removed in October.
Your personal information is also being used for profit. Facebook collects data about you and shares it with advertisers, including the amount of time your cursor hovers over an ad as well as your location. Facebook users Matthew Campbell from Arkansas and Michael Hurley from Oregon recently filed a class-action lawsuit against the company claiming that the social network mines users’ private messages and sells the information to advertisers.
Delete your Facebook account and you gain more control over what personal information is shared with the world.
Connecting online with friends and family seems like a fun pastime that would enrich your life, but several studies report otherwise. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the more time people spend on Facebook, the higher their chance of depression.
Another study, this one out of Utah Valley University, found that using Facebook can cause you to feel dissatisfied with your life. Researchers found "those who have used Facebook longer agreed more that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair."
Leave Facebook and you won’t compare your life with a snapshot of someone else’s.
While Facebook starts out as a tool to keep in touch with friends and family, it can become a distraction and an easy way to procrastinate. In fact, researchers in Norway have indentified different levels of addiction in Facebook users.
According to Nielsen's annual Social Media report, the average American spends six and a half hours each month on social media, with Facebook being the most used network. And some of that time is during work hours; tech blogger Michael Fitzpatrick estimated that Facebook costs U.S. companies $28 billion in lost productivity each year.
Quit Facebook and you’ll have time to spend doing something else.
It can be easy to share things on Facebook—too easy. Feeling upset? Post your feelings and your friends are sure to cheer you up. The problem can come when your posts are seen by your employer. A DTE Energy customer service rep in Detroit learned this the hard way in November when she complained—rather explicitly—on Facebook about having to handle customer calls after a storm. She lost her job. Similar stories are not uncommon. A teacher in Georgia lost her job when a parent saw a photo of her on vacation in Europe holding a pint of beer and a glass of red wine, and a waitress in North Carolina lost her job after she complained about customers on Facebook.
Facebook can also affect future jobs. More than half of employers report checking an applicant’s social media presence before hiring. That means the photo of you during Spring Break may kill your chances of getting the interview.
Stay off Facebook and you might just climb the corporate ladder faster—or at least you won’t fall from grace.