Mark Zuckerberg checks his phone during the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 13, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Photo: Getty

Americans have soured on Facebook in the past year, as more people come to terms with the toxic role that the social media platform plays in their lives. A new Pew Research Center survey shows that a large percentage of the population has taken extended breaks from Facebook in the past year, with 26 percent of American users saying that they’ve deleted the app from their phones completely.

Facebook, a platform that the United Nations recently found to be complicit in genocide in Myanmar, has come under fire in the past year over its mishandling of private data and the role it played in helping to get President Trump elected through the spread of misinformation on the platform. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is even appearing on Capitol Hill today to face questions about the way that the company handles political content.

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The new Pew survey hasn’t found any correlation between someone’s political views and their willingness to take a break from Facebook. Democrats and Republicans alike are scaling back their use of the social media site, with 42 percent of Americans saying that they’ve stopped using Facebook “for several weeks or more” during the past year.

There was, however, a large difference in how people reacted to the platform based on age. A whopping 44 percent of users aged 18 to 29 say that they’ve deleted the Facebook app from their phones, while only 12 percent of users over the age of 65 have reported doing the same.

A majority of American users have also reported changing their privacy settings in the past year, with 54 percent locking down their accounts recently. But there was also a large age gap for this category of questions. Roughly 64 percent of younger users (18-29) have changed their privacy settings in the past year, while only a third of those over the age of 65 have made their accounts more private in the wake of Facebook’s many scandals.

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Some conservatives have called on Facebook to be regulated as a utility since they claim that the social media platform is discriminating against their views. But that position isn’t borne out by the facts. If anything, conservatives and Trump voters have arguably benefited the most from Facebook’s loose relationship with facts and the average user’s ability on the platform to spread wild conspiracies that sometimes become mainstream. The most absurd and dangerous theories on Fox News, such as the idea that murdered Democratic National Committee Seth Rich was the source for Democratic emails released to WikiLeaks, originated on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Gizmodo has reached out to Facebook for comment. We’ve asked why they believe young people are deleting the Facebook app from their phones and whether it has anything to do with Facebook’s complicity in genocide. We’ll update this article when we hear back.

[Pew Research]

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