November 15, 2016

Trapped in social networks

News Privacy

A recent survey of 4,831 active social network users, conducted by Kaspersky Lab in 12 countries, reveals that an overwhelming majority (78%) of respondents considered quitting their social networks — but chose to stay. They wanted to leave for a variety of reasons: 39% of users complained they were wasting too much time, the top response. The top reason not to quit was a desire to stay in touch with relatives and friends (62% of respondents).

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In this post we present key survey results and their interpretations.

Key Findings

  • 78% of active social networks users who responded to our survey said that they have been thinking of quitting social networks
  • Key reasons users consider quitting:
    • They are tired of wasting time — 39%
    • They don’t like being monitored by IT giants — 30%
  • Key considerations that prevent users from quitting: 62% want to stay in touch with friends and relatives
  • Users generally welcome the idea of a solution that could allow them to gain control over their digital moments (28%), but they want to see how convenient it is
  • The three most important features for such a service from users’ point of view:
    • Ability to limit access for third-party applications and services to one’s digital profile — 50%
    • Strong encryption of saved data — 46%
    • Special tool for flexible arrangement of stored information — 34%

Interpretation

Our first question was: “Have you ever considered quitting social networks?” The overwhelming majority (78%) admitted that they had. A small fraction of them (6% of all respondents) went even farther and said that they actually hate social networks. About 17% had never considered leaving their social networks. These results were pretty consistent for all of the countries in which we ran the survey: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan.

So: Why would users consider quitting their social networks?

Figure 1. Reasons users have considered quitting social networks.

Figure 1. Reasons users have considered quitting social networks.

The top reason for quitting (39% of respondents) appears to be a growing feeling among users that they are wasting too much time on social networking sites. The second most popular reason overall (30% of respondents) was that they don’t want IT giants monitoring their every move online. However, the top two reasons were not uniform across the countries we surveyed. Countries including Italy and Germany flipped the top two, being more concerned about privacy than loafing, and users in Spain came close to rating IT giants’ monitoring their No. 1 reason to consider leaving social media. More detailed information on the number of respondents is reported below, in the “Methodology” section.

As we expected when we designed the survey, the most popular reason for staying was that they wanted to keep in touch with their friends and relatives (62% of respondents).

Figure 2. Reasons for not quitting social networks (multiple choice).

Figure 2. Reasons for not quitting social networks (multiple choice).

The second biggest reason named (21%) was that they want to share their digital memories online and feel that social networks are the best places to do that. One in six respondents (18%) said that they use social network accounts to log in to other Web services.

We also asked users if they would consider using a service that allows them to store their digital moments (conversations, videos, images, and other memories) in one place, offline or in the cloud. Such a service would give users the freedom to do what they want with their online accounts without losing access to their digital memories regardless of connectivity status or social network moderators’ mood — or even to quit social networks without losing a bit of their digital profile.

Figure 3. “If you could store the conversations, videos, images and other memories from the networks you use in one place, would you be interested?”

On the average, most users chose the option “I might, but it will depend on how convenient the tool will be” (28%). However, the second most favored option, “Sounds like a good idea to have my own backup” (22% on average) was slightly more favored in Brazil, Italy, and Spain. The option “It’s my digital life and I want to keep it for myself” was the third most important consideration (19%).

Figure 4. Premium features respondents found interesting (multiple choice).

Figure 4. Premium features respondents found interesting (multiple choice).

We then asked users about which features they would consider important in such a tool, and 50% of respondents named “Ability to limit the access to third-party applications and services to my digital memories” the most important. That wasn’t the case for all of the countries, though: respondents from Brazil voted more for the service to employ the best-in-class encryption for saved data — the second most preferred option (46% on average). In Russia, the most popular option was “Special tool for flexible arrangement of stored information” (No. 3 on average, chosen by 34% of respondents globally). Contrary to what we expected, only 27% of respondents selected the proposed automatic backup option.

Methodology

The survey period was seven weeks starting in the beginning of October and ending in the middle of November. The survey, containing eight questions, was translated into nine languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese, and Turkish, and programmed using Poll Daddy. We disseminated the link to the survey using paid Facebook and Twitter promotions in North America (US and Canada, EN(NA) on the graph below), the United Kingdom (UK), Spain (ES), Mexico (MX), Brazil(BR), France(FR), Italy(IT), Germany(DE), Russia (RU) and Japan (JP). Turkish (TR) version of the survey was not promoted as long as the others, and the number of respondents for Turkey is close to the organic reach.

Figure 5

Questions “What prevents you from quitting [social networks]?” and “Which premium features [of the service] you might be interested?”, the responses to which are presented in figures 2 and 4, respectively, allowed for multiple choice.

In general, the age distribution of respondents in most of the countries follows the reference age distribution of Facebook users, which indicates an accurate representation of the population for Brazil and Russia, given the total amount of responses we received. However, countries such as Italy, Germany, the United States, and Canada had a much higher proportion of older respondents than Facebook does.

The gender distribution of respondents also was far from even, with 68% male and only 29% female (3% chose neither or preferred not to disclose) on average across all geographies. The only country with minimal gender disparity of respondents was Russia (51% male, 47% female, 2% undisclosed), and Brazil’s respondents were the most disparate (92% male, 7% female).

Finally, we did not fail to notice the significant proportion of “Other” responses to both the question about reasons for considering quitting and the question about reasons keeping users from quitting. That leaves room for in-depth research on this phenomena, which is in process — stay tuned!