NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Every month millions more people around the world join Facebook, a social networking site that now counts roughly one-tenth of the global population as users, but in the U.S., where Facebook started out, the number of users is actually on the decline.
Between May and June of this year, the total number of U.S. users dropped from 155 million to 149 million, the country’s first such decline in a year, according to a report from Inside Facebook, which tracks data from the social network. That means at least 6 million Americans decided to log off Facebook for good, and probably many more than that if you consider how many new users likely signed up for the service in that time.
It’s unclear whether most of those users left because of long-held concerns over privacy, a desire to cut down on distractions or simply because they grew tired of the site for their own unique reasons. If you are considering following in their footsteps, however, know that there is a right way and a wrong way to quit Facebook.
For many Facebook users, the site is more than just a place to post updates about your life. Facebook effectively functions as an address book and a photo gallery all-in-one. So if you do wake up one morning with a strong urge to abandon the site for good, make sure you take the time first to preserve any valuable personal information you may have on the site.
Anyone who uses Yahoo for email can transfer email addresses from Facebook friends to their Yahoo account, while those with a Gmail account can use the Friends to Gmail Web application to store the biographies, birthdays and work histories of Facebook friends, and may soon offer a way to transfer email addresses as well. In addition to those options, Firefox, the popular web browser, offers a free feature that lets users download all the content from their Facebook page – including photos - onto their hard drive for safe keeping.
Even with these options, it may still be worth taking a few hours to go through your Facebook content manually to highlight and store the items of the most importance, whether it be office contacts, meaningful pictures or messages you sent and received on the site.
If you’re at the point where you no longer want to be on Facebook, chances are you’re not really in the mood to sign up for another social networking site either. But it’s arguably more important than ever before to maintain some kind of Web presence to stay in touch with acquaintances, not just for your personal life but your professional life. Facebook is a great tool for this thanks to its vast number of users, but it’s far from the only site one can use.