Here’s Why People are Unplugging from Facebook Post-Election

“On both sides, pretty closely, people did speak or address this idea of speaking out more and actually needing to engage. The folks who were deactivating, or cutting back were sort of saying ‘I’m fully aware that I’m digging my head into the sand and it’s really nice down here.’”

By Rhonda FanningNovember 22, 2016 11:12 am|

NPR’s All Tech Considered received hundreds of responses when they asked listeners how they feel about social media post-election. No matter how you feel about the outcome of the race for the White House, something the nation seems to have in common is a shift in how we feel about interacting with each other online.

Alina Selyukh, technology reporter at NPR and host of the All Tech Considered blog, says she posted a callout to the NPR Facebook asking for comments on a personal hunch.

“Shortly after the election a couple of my friends said that they were feeling overwhelmed and tired and signed off of Facebook,” she says. “I thought to myself, ‘This can’t be a unique incident, I wonder if other people have heard of such a thing.’”

The post asked if listeners or somebody they knew has either cut back on social media use or, on the flip side, decided to engage more. Those who responded who were not Facebook, or were cutting down, heard from a friend or family member that NPR was requesting comments.

Most people said they’re cutting back on social media, and some said they are deactivating their accounts completely.

One person Selyukh spoke with said she was “finding Facebook to have a negative impact on her continuing to keep a positive feeling regarding some of the people she has known longest and cherished most.”

“She sent a note a few days ago to all of her friends saying she quit Facebook because she’s feeling really down about it lately,” Selyukh says.

The reason for cutting down or deactivating is twofold, Selyukh says. People are feeling braver about speaking their opinions on Facebook, now that the election has shaken out, but one commenter said that shouldn’t be the norm.

“One of the people who wrote in had a kind of interesting idea that you argue that voting should be anonymous presumably for neighbors to remain friends after the election,” Selyukh says. “But on Facebook, you know way more about people than as their neighbor – shouldn’t political opinion also be anonymous on Facebook?”

Commentators said they’re burned out: there’s a constant flood of news and commentary about politics. People are feeling overwhelmed and tired. The rampant spread of fake news also drowned their spirits.

“A large number of people said that they were really shocked to see some of their smartest friends in their circle sharing [articles that] were not so smart and that were clearly fake and not based on reality,” Selyukh says. “That really undermined their opinion of these folks.”

But not everyone’s turning away from social media, Selyukh says – indeed, some appear to be more committed than ever.

“On both sides, pretty closely, people did speak or address this idea of speaking out more and actually needing to engage. The folks who were deactivating, or cutting back were sort of saying ‘I’m fully aware that I’m digging my head into the sand and it’s really nice down here,’” Selyukh says.

And others say confronting the problems head-on is the answer.

“On the other side people were arguing that this is the wrong approach and in fact, the solution is to engage more, is to start correcting fake news, is to bring more light to accurate information and not disengage completely from the political discussion,” she says.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.