Facebook lost users in North America for the first time ever in the last quarter of 2017, dropping 1 million across the United States and Canada from 185 to 184 million.
This comes on the heels of reporting from Recode on Facebook's Q4 earnings call where Facebook’s Q4 stats indicated that overall people spent 50 million fewer hours on the largest social network on the planet.
Both of these developments could be attributed to a number of factors over the last 12 months, including the ongoing struggle to combat “fake news” accounts, the volatile news cycle, and a general sense of exhaustion among those who previously found their communities on Facebook enjoyable spaces to hang out in.
Any drop in users is going to affect earnings, and Facebook has indicated profits were way down at the end of 2017, citing both the drop in North American users (each of whom is worth $26.76 to Facebook) and the new tax legislation implemented by Congress, which added over 2 billion dollars to the company’s tax bill for 2017.
While the drop in users may not seem like a lot, it could indicate the start of a downward trend that would have a ripple effect over the next few years as unless tech companies begin to seriously deal with the real-world impacts of social media in a much more aggressive way. Safety from harassment has never been more in the forefront of people’s minds when they’re online, and the last several years and proven that there are still many vulnerabilities technological, cultural, and legal that still need to be confronted for the relationship between users and social platforms to improve.
Time will tell if this drop in daily users is a momentary blip or the beginning of a more serious exodus from social media for many people.